A list of ten random thoughts and observations on the Feast of St. Patrick:
1) I have a variant of this conversation every Saint Patrick’s Day:
“So are you Irish?”
“Can’t you tell by my name?
“Your name’s Irish?”
“Of course it is: O’Reilly, O’Hara. O’Malley, O’zab!”
I get a chuckle every time, but my response is only half-joking. I really am part-Irish. The Fitzgerald part to be exact. I’m Norman Irish, which means I’m distantly descended from Vikings. Maybe it would be cooler to be Celtic, but the Fitzgeralds were traditionally labeled as “more Irish than the Irish themselves.” I can settle for that.
2) I’m not just Irish anymore. Since I joined the Catholic Church last Easter I’m Irish Catholic. Does that mean I have to like Notre Dame? I will admit that they’ve grown on me a bit in the last ten years. I’m not sure if it’s Catholic solidarity, Catholic guilt (the university is named after Our Lady), or that their fans aren’t quite as obnoxious since the football team started stinking, but I just can’t work up the dislike I used to hold for them.
3) I rarely drink beer, but when I do I always drink good beer. Not squirrel piss, or, on St. Patrick’s Day, green-dyed squirrel piss. And I drink it room temperature or slightly chilled, depending on how dark it is (general rule: the darker the beer the warmer you want it).
4) Speaking of green dye, if the city of Chicago can dye the river green one day a year, why can’t they dye it blue the other 364 days? (OK, I swiped that one from The Fugitive, but it’s a good question.)
5) I told Anna she’s part Irish. Her response: “I’m not Irish, I’m a princess!” I told her the two weren’t mutually exclusive. She looked at me funny and I found myself trying to explain to a six-year-old what mutually exclusive means.
6) Speaking of Anna, she brought The Ring of Truth to school today for their St. Patrick’s Day themed Show and Tell. Her choice: she loves books so much, and I am so proud.
7) My favorite definition of blarney: To tell a man to go to Hell in a way that makes him look forward to the trip. Oh, and if your Irish you don’t need to kiss the Blarney Stone, you’re born with it.
8) The Shamrock is a symbol of St. Patrick because of an old story about how he explained the Trinity using one. A four-leaf clover has nothing to do with St. Patrick; it is a more appropriate symbol for a casino.
9) While on the subject of the saint, he wasn’t born in Ireland (he was a Roman Briton), he has nothing to do with the so-called Saint Patrick’s flag (which is taken from the Fitzgerald family crest), and he wasn’t associated with the color green until the 17th Century (his traditional color is blue).
10) A great book about St. Patrick and Celtic Monasticism is How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. It will give you a whole new appreciation of how a handful of dedicated monks at the edge of the known world preserved the whole of classical literature in the West. Without them, there’d be no High Middle Ages, no Renaissance, and no Modern World.
For them and for all the Irish—whether year-round or just for today . . .
Drink a pint for me, as long as it’s real beer and not green.