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THE Virgin in the Tree Stump controversy that hit the headlines last week intrigues me. It has brought forth the predictable howls of ridicule to match the intense religious devotion of those who believe in the reality of a divine presence in the tree.
I disagree with the remark of the local priest who said “you can’t worship a tree”. Why not? If you look at any of the objects of worship associated with religious creeds you don’t adhere to, you’ll possibly be tempted to make similar pronouncements.
Personally, I’m delighted that so many of the people in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, are engaging in this gentle demonstration of faith in the supernatural. It makes a pleasant change from the annual hare coursing savagery for which the town and district including, in the not so distant past, its clergy, is also famous — or infamous, depending on one’s view of blood sports.
Rathkeale hosts this barbaric festival of cruelty to animals masquerading as “sport”, a form of entertainment outlawed in Britain, Australia and most other countries that once allowed it.
I attended one of these “sporting” events there one year and had to shield my ears from the child-like screams of the dying hares as the hounds pulled them asunder. I didn’t see anyone counting on rosary beads that day.
I’m delighted to see the locals have found a more sedate preoccupation, at least for the time being because I’d prefer to have them worshipping or kissing a tree than setting up hares as live bait for greyhounds.
If the Blessed Virgin is appearing in the tree stump, I wonder if by any chance she might call for the disbandment of Rathkeale coursing club?
St Francis of Assisi was a lifelong opponent of cruelty to animals. I would like to see him appear too on the surface of that hallowed wood grain. He might put in a good word for the suffering hares of Rathkeale.
Lr Coyne Street
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