Tis the season for the wearin' o' the green! Shamrocks! Leprechauns! Parades! Kiss me I'm Irish! On Saint Patty's Day, everybody is Irish!
Much of what we know about St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is largely legend. However, we do know that St. Patrick was born in Britain, and that he was captured by Irish raiders when he was sixteen, and transported to Ireland. During his six year imprisonment, Patrick relied upon his faith for strength. His writings reveal that he believed he heard the voice of God commanding him to escape Ireland. He obeyed, walked 200 miles to the Irish coast, and eventually reached England. Once home, an angel allegedly appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick thus began a long period of religious training, culminating in his ordination as a Catholic priest. Patrick was sent to Ireland to convert the Irish. St. Patty's Day, however, means much more than dedication to St. Patrick.
If you ask an Irishman what it means to be Irish, you will probably get a variety of answers, united by one strong, common thread: family. The Irish are big on family. I ought to know. I'm of Irish descent.
My great-great grandfather, Peter, came to America from County Tyrone, Ireland in the early 1800s. Like many immigrants, Peter could neither read nor write. He made his living as a laborer and a gardener, and supported six children and his wife, Mary. After Mary passed away, Peter kept his family together. His son, Lawrence, later settled in New York, and married an Irish woman named Josephine. Their son married the daughter of Irish immigrants, and eventually had three sons. Their youngest child, Francis, a mischievous, little street urchin with sparkling blue eyes, grew up to be my father.
My father raised me to put family first. From my parents, I learned respect for my elders, a love of hearth and home, a fear of the Lord. I learned to pray, to sing, to laugh. I learned that there is nothing more important than family, and family roots. Despite the fact that I don't like corned beef and cabbage, and can't dance the Irish jig, I am most definitely an Irishman's daughter.
My mother had a favorite Gaelic blessing which, in the spirit of St Patty's Day, I offer to you now:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Iarin Go Braugh! Ireland Forever!