Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
Today I’m celebrating my feast day! The feast of St. Patrick.
He was the cause of the first serious argument, and act of rebellion I had as a youth with my mother. I was given a tremendous love of my Irish heritage and the Faith passed to me by my parents and grandmother grows deeper each day of my life. At the age of 12, however, I don’t think my mom realized how very serious I was about my religious choices.
In May it was normal for 6th graders in our school to be confirmed in the Faith. Looking back now, from this old age, I realize most kids that age don’t have a clue about what it truly means, and I’m grateful we gave our daughter Rose the choice to be confirmed or to wait when her turn arrived at a similar age. Although I believe Rose was a graced child, and was ready to make such a step, she herself decided to wait. Then during her college years, she was confirmed in Boston, in the middle of the worst scandals in US Church history! I admire that kind of Faith in Jesus!
When it was my turn, there were no choices given. We were trained, sometimes well, and ushered down the aisle to the bishop who gently smacked us upside the head and our faith was confirmed. Mine truly was. I too was a child of grace, gifted with a love I thought everyone had, presumed everyone had for God! God was my friend, my companion, my buddy, my God! Always together, never apart. Of course I longed to be confirmed. There was no thought of anything else.
The problem was not one of faith in our home, but one of tradition (not the big "T" Tradition, but the little human "t" tradition). What name to take? My father had taken Aloysius for his confirmation name (God only knows why). So, when my oldest brother was born, he was named after our father, then when his confirmation came around, he too took Aloysius--after our father. When my turn came, I, who had been named after my mother and Catherine of Siena, was expected to take my mother’s confirmation name, Mary.
My first battle was over the mother of God and St. Patrick! You know it’s a Catholic family with that kind of turmoil! I announced that I was taking Patricia for my name after St. Patrick, because I admired him (from having read his biography, and from hearing about him all my life from my beloved Irish grandmother). My mother was hurt. I never realized that she was more hurt than angry, until years later. But it came across as anger to me then, and I dug my heels of faith in and stood my ground. This was, after all to be my name forever into eternity! This was my choice to follow the steps of a particular saint. I wanted to be a saint, like Catherine of Siena, and now to follow in Patrick’s steps of sharing the good news of Jesus to others. That seemed like what we were told to do in religion class. The good sisters never mentioned taking our parents’ names, but the names of saints we admired. (uh, it must be made clear here that I admire Mary the mother of Jesus Christ...never let it be said otherwise, but I had this love for Patrick, or what I knew of him then.)
Anyway, my mother figured I’d obey her and take Mary, and didn’t know until I came back from the bishop, in profound tears of joy and love of God, that I’d indeed taken Patrick as my patron.
Years later, Rose made her choice in Boston, and was confirmed. We went to Boston to celebrate this day with her, and with her friends. I never thought to ask her what name she took if any (I’d heard some didn’t add names these days). As we were walking to the restaurant after the ceremony I asked if she took a name. She said yes. What was it? She looked at me and said "Patricia!"
Suddenly, I understood how my own mother felt. I never expected Rose to take the name I had taken. I had not even thought of names until that very moment. Yet, when she said that I felt the bond that my own mother wanted with me. I guess it’s that human thing that gets in the way so often, the emotions that motivate some of our hopes and decisions. My mother wanted us to share those names. She meant no harm, no pride at all, just a desire to share that bond that a name holds for parents and children within certain traditions. I suddenly felt a sorrow that I somehow hurt my mother (who had died only a few months prior to Rose’s Confirmation Day). It was part of my grief, I guess. I felt happy that Rose took Patricia. We’d named her Rose Catherine, and both names after me (no, I’m not explaining the Rose part now...). I was happy to pass Catherine of Siena along to her as her patron saint--a very strong woman of Faith. Now she too had Patrick. Did she take it for Patrick? Or for me? I don’t know.
But, I matured a bit more that day, and understood my own mother a bit more that day. Our children unwittingly teach us so much about ourselves, and our parents when we are parents. So St. Patrick’s Day is my feast day, and Rose’s feast day. The fact that it falls during Holy Week doesn’t change that one bit. We are happy today. We celebrate our heritage, our Faith, our family bonds, and those grandparents we knew and never knew who passed this Irish thing to us that we love so much. We celebrate.
Theologically I think I might differ with Pat today. Not certain. But today, that doesn’t matter much. Today it’s a celebration of our Faith, and our Family!
Thanks for bringing Christ to our people Patrick! Party on!
"Celtic Soul Song"
Our people were pagan until we met Christ.
We recognized Him from the start.
Never a martyr was made at our hands
For Christ was in the Irish heart.
And His message of Good News that God loved the world
was something we always believed
for we knew well God’s Spirit in nature and life,
and it showed in the circles we weaved.
We knew of the other world all around us
such spiritual people were we
who hungered so deeply for life and for love
outraged it was nailed to a tree!
As Conor MacNessa first led the way
defending Christ unto his death,
our people have faithfully recognized Him,
calling Him with their last breath.
But the old pagan ways and the gods that we knew
continued along by Christ’s side,
called by a new name given by Rome.
It is not from Christ that they hide,
But from those who dare to speak in His Name,
conquering culture and lore,
proclaiming that Christ would have it that way,
destroying all that came before.
But free Celtic spirits knew that in Christ
there is neither male nor female,
and threatened the power that sought to control
the mind, heart and soul of the Gael.
And ’tho they have died for Christ through these years,
their spirit submitted to Rome,
their passion subdued by Jansenist lies
invading their Faith and their home.
’tho many a priestly priest came from our land
and they had the power, we know.
That power was Love, God’s very own.
(For others it just wasn’t so.)
For others the priesthood was not to serve God
and not to bring Grace to the soul.
With goodwill we trusted and honoured them all.
Their power was meant to control.
Yet still we are Irish and still our souls yearn
for that spiritual part in our lives.
Abused and afflicted, like Christ we were led,
as children and husbands and wives.
Obeying the laws, tho they were not our own
but placed upon us from outside,
we trusted their goodwill and trusted their vows
until we discovered they lied.
We look deep within now still knowing the Love
of that God who is greater than Rome,
to the God of our people, the God of our clan,
the God of our family and home.
The misuse of power, that we trusted so,
as quietly we bore our cross!
Exposed now for what it was, treachery, sin!
Our clear vision now is Rome’s loss.
But surely it was not Christ who did wrong
nor priests humbly serving our land,
but those filled with lust of power o’er us.
Satanical, clerical band!
Our impulse toward God will guide us as we
continue to seek the Divine.
We’ll see God in nature, in people and song
as clearly as in bread and wine.
And the ancient soul friends who’ve never left us,
who’ve always been here in our land
Daghdha and Bridget and from Tir na nOg
with Jesus they walk hand in hand.
Forget not our heritage and whence we came!
And honour the heart of the Celt.
We must be respected in Church as in home,
For before Rome knew Christ, we knelt.
T’was never a time that we did not know God,
regardless the titles we use.
And we welcomed the Truth, whatever the form.
The true God would never abuse!
So we hold fast to God as we always have,
as Pagan or Christian or Jew,
and take back the power that we gave to Rome.
Oh God, if only we knew....
Copyright 1995 Cáit Finnegan