- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2006

No escaping terror

A VIP reception will be held this evening at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill in honor of Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume, former leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) of Northern Ireland, and current SDLP leader Mark Durkan.

One of the two main nationalist parties in Northern Ireland, the SDLP was formed in 1970 and today draws much of its support from working Catholics. Just last week, Mr. Durkan welcomed to Belfast three U.S. congressmen monitoring the seemingly endless Northern Ireland peace process.

“The United States Congress is still very much engaged,”said New York Republican Rep. James T. Walsh, the delegation’s leader.

But while he had their ears, SDLP member P.J. Bradley told the visiting lawmakers — including Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican, and Rep. Brian Higgins, New York Democrat — of concerns surrounding undocumented Irish workers here in the United States who are now suddenly threatened by the Border Protection Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.

“I explained … the fears of many parents and families, in all of the 32 counties of Ireland, as a result of the threat to their U.S.-based family members,” Mr. Bradley said. “I reminded the congressmen that if the [anti-terror] act in its present form ever becomes a reality, it will create a break in the 300-plus years’ tradition of the Irish traveling to, working in and building America. And in a few generations it will no longer be possible for prominent Americans to refer to their Irish ancestry in their profiles or biographies.

“Given the fact that all three of the visiting [U.S. congressmen] are of Irish descent and proud of the fact, I believe they fully understood what I was saying.”

Tough duty

For Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy, last week’s congressional junket to the United Kingdom was a walk in the park compared with his Thanksgiving tour of Iraq.

The Republican lawmaker suffered a cut above his right eye and pain in his neck, arms and back after he and Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, were injured while traveling on a back road to the Baghdad airport. An approaching vehicle sideswiped their armored minivan, causing it to topple.

Mr. Murphy, 53, and Mr. Skelton, the 73-year-old ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, were both hospitalized in Germany. Injuries to the latter lawmaker might have been more severe had Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia not grabbed hold of Mr. Skelton — who has little use of his arms owing to polio — when the bus rolled over.

Lara Battles, a spokeswoman for Mr. Skelton, told Inside the Beltway yesterday that the congressman stayed put in his district during the recent congressional recess and is “now doing fine.”

Humility

“Happy Feast Day of Saint Francis de Sales,” Alexandria native and longtime newspaperman Timothy OLeary wrote to Inside the Beltway yesterday from his home in Geneva. “I didn’t know he was the ‘Patron Saint of Journalists.’”

Nor did we, but after reading up on the saint, we can understand why. Although he liked to “party and get into swordfights” (not much has changed), Francis, born in 1567, knew for 13 years of his avocation to the priesthood before he mentioned it to anybody.

“His biggest concern on being ordained was that he had to have his lovely curly gold hair cut off,” the Catholic Press Association says. (Imagine, a vain journalist.) But after much inner struggle, Francis took his priestly vows and before long found himself waking up in unusual places (not unlike roving correspondents today).

“He slept in haylofts if he could, but once he slept in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down,” the CPA states. “No one would listen to him. No one would even open their door.” (Again, not much has changed.)

“So Francis found a way to get under the door,” his bio continues. “He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand and slipped them under the doors (the early newspaper, so to speak) to communicate with people.

“Francis was overworked (here, here) and often ill because of his constant load,” the church’s historians add. “But he had proven with his own life that people could grow in holiness while involved in a very active occupation. His most famous book, ‘Introduction to the Devout Life,’ became an instant success … though some preachers tore it up because he tolerated dancing and jokes.” (Laughter, after all, is the best medicine.)

“He believed the worst sin was to judge someone or to gossip about them (our motto, too). He wanted to be a hermit, but he was more in demand than ever. The pope needed him, then a princess (we can relate), then Louis XIII. He died on Dec. 28, 1622, after giving a nun his last word of advice: ‘Humility.’”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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