With all the trouble in recent years with regard to child abuse, I fear today's feast may not be celebrated by many in Ireland today. Today is the memoria of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers.
Blessed Edmund was a remarkable man, a man of deep humility, prayer, service and love. The fact that his congregations have been implicated in the abuse crisis is a tragedy for their founder who abhorred the use of violence and sought, like Don Bosco after him, to teach the boys in his care through love. He told his brothers that they must not act in anger with the boys that misbehave, but to win their hearts. The infamous "leather", associated with the Christian Brothers, came in after his death - he forbade corporal punishment. He was not the first founder whose wishes were ignored by his spiritual children after his death.
Blessed Edmund suffered a great deal in his life. His lost his wife in tragic circumstances, his daughter was handicapped, though she was a joy to him throughout his life. He saw his congregation split by a bishop who wanted control over the brothers based in Cork. Towards the end of his life he was also treated badly by some members of his congregation, as are many founders.
Today, the greater tragedy is that his life's work seems to have not only been lost, but sullied and demeaned, and his congregations are much despised. Yet there were many good and holy Christian and Presentation Brothers, very much sons of Blessed Edmund. We can only hope that, with the passage of time, the full truth will emerge and we Irish might one day be proud again of this holy, selfless and loving man who sought to serve the young and prepare them not only for life, but also for heaven. We have an Irish Don Bosco here, pray the Lord that one day we will realise it.
Here is a photograph of his tomb in Waterford, not really mad about it, touch of the space capsule or even tupperware about it. Actually, to be honest, I hate it...... Poor Blessed Edmund!