The only topic to begin this week is the Pope. There are so many emotions swirling around that it is difficult to focus exactly on what happened and how it will affect Ireland.
To begin with, the lead up to the Pope’s visit was enormous and most of it, whether it was intentional or not, was negative. We were continually told it was a different Ireland now than 1979. Of course it is a different Ireland, who expects any country to stay the same?
Then we were told he was a different Pope. Of course he was a different Pope. Pope John Paul II was a young man of 58 years, athletic, could speak English and was charismatic. Pope Francis, in contrast, is 81, he cannot speak much English but he is certainly charismatic, though of a different nature.
I often thought in the lead up to the Pope’s visit that if I was him and could understand all of what was going on in Ireland in all of the programmes, the newspapers, the commentary in the days leading up, I would feel very tempted to get out a note and to say: “Dear Ireland, I am not going to see you all as I think I am not welcome!”
But of course when he came it was all different, and I am so glad that the Irish people gave him a warm, human welcome. Any person could not help but be moved by his straightforward appearance, outlook and the general sentiments which he was able to express to all of us.
There were different incidents from the different places he went to, but in the overall so many people turned out to see him, so many people were enthused and exhilarated by the presence of the Pope in our midst, whether it was on the main streets of Dublin, in the Phoenix Park, in Croke Park or in Knock.
He was there in his simplicity, his emphatic character and his clear love for the people of Ireland.
It is my belief that when he gets back to the Vatican he will be determined to not just talk the talk but to walk the walk as well. There is an outstanding need for the Curia to be altered and changed so that the will of the Pope, translated to him by the will of the people, will be implemented, and that is that no incorrect sexual activity towards young people or vulnerable people will be tolerated, overlooked or hidden within the highest echelons of the Church.
It is only if the Pope’s emphatic denunciations and determination to put this right that we will be able, from a distance, to judge definitively if the whole visit has been a total success.
To me and so many other hundreds of thousands of people, including I am sure many of the readers of the Advertiser, the visit of the Pope had an emotional impact. A la recherche du temps perdu.
Of course, I remember when Enda and our two sons were 10 and 14 years of age and we went out to Clonmacnoise to see Pope John Paul II in the early dawn of that wonderful September day. To me it is one of the stand-out memories in my life with Enda and my young children, so I was overlaid with that emotion as I watched everything play out on television.
We will be talking again about the visit of Pope Francis and learning more as the days and weeks unfold.
Back now to all the school leavers who have got their Leaving Certificate results and perhaps those who intend to go to college will have got round one of the CAO offers and they await further rounds to see their outcome.
College has long been seen as the be all and end all of education. In recent years however that story is changing and I am very glad that that is so. Last year when I wrote this column I remember talking about the burgeoning apprenticeship system.
When we think of apprenticeships we think of the older ones – plumbing, brick-laying, construction work, electrical and all of the various manual-related apprenticeships which have served Ireland so well for so many years.
Apprenticeship has taken on a whole new meaning now. Solas, which took over from Fás, has branched out into every area of living. Apprenticeships now are in the financial areas, they are in beauty, culinary arts, especially in the commis chef area, hospitality, tourism, insurance, financial, accountancy.
Any area of life that you can think of, there is either an apprenticeship or a traineeship which has been devised and suits, if that is the way the young person’s mind is moving.
I urge young students who may feel that they are left out of what is the next stage of life at 18 plus when they see their peers trotting off to Dublin, Cork, Galway or any of the institutes of technology around the country, the Leaving Cert and what you attained in it is only the beginning of the next stage in your life.
Now, through PLCs in every town in the land, you can start your course which in turn can lead you eventually, if you are so inclined, to a PhD in the highest university.
I cannot emphasise enough how seriously you should all look at this huge range of options which is open to every young man and woman now in August of 2018 and which are daily increasing in their content and in their possibilities as to where they will lead you, the young person at the cusp of life.
My advice is look at everything. Go to your career guidance teacher in the school in which you have just finished. Comb the newspapers, comb the supplements attached to them, scroll through the internet and do your research until you are satisfied that your abilities can be worked through in further education, PLCs, apprenticeships or any other method of further education.
Remember, in many of these course you will undertake you earn as you’re learning, and is that not a wonderful concept in itself?
I know I have gone on and on about this, but I really feel deeply that the world is opening up today for young people as it never did before, so I urge you all to explore and keep exploring until you find out what further option is suitable and available for YOU.
That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.
In the meantime go safely.
Slán go fóill.