Saturday, March 16, 2013

La'Fheile Pa'draig Sona Duit 2013

Posting for St Patrick's Day has become something of a tradition here at "Just Blowing Smoke", and it would seem almost sinful not to continue the custom of taking note of an Irish holy day, even when it occurs on a Sunday.  Now all good Irish Catholic lads (and most of us old codgers) live in the fear of the hellfire that they so richly deserve.  I therefore, will at least make a minor act of contrition and posting once more on a issue of religious relevance (and historical as well) as my normal Saturday offering.

As I did last year, I've included a sample of Kansas City's favorite Irish band "The Elders" from last year's annual "Hoolie", knowing full well that they will be holding this grand event again at the Uptown Theater once again this evening. (Hopefully, sharing their talent with my sometimes growing, but often rather twisted group of readers will meet with their blessing.  If not, I have no doubt they'll be 'wigs on the green' for sure.) 

So now though it seems it was just a moment ago, here we are; and it's time once again for this humble scribbler born of Irish origins to wish all of you that most glorious of annual salutations:

La'Fheile Pa'draig Sona Duit

Now for those unfamiliar with the ancient Hibernian tongue, I have in fact wished you, individually, a Happy St. Patrick's Day in Gaelic. (The phrase is pronounced "La ale-lah pwad-rig son a ditch".)       

St Patrick is of course, the patron saint of 'The Island of Saints and Scholars', more commonly known as Ireland (pronounced 'areland). The Island of Eire, as it's known in its native tongue is also known as the Emerald Isle, from the regular and abundant rains which produce a countryside dominated by the same lovely shade of green as its crystalline namesake. More fortuitously tomorrow on the day for those who celebrate it however, it's the land where Irish monks first created the nectar of the gods more commonly known as Whiskey (probably as a defense against the rigors of their chosen monastic lifestyle); and for the production of the finest offering of the brewer's art ... Guinness. 

(Actually, there's a long standing rumor that it was God Himself who created whiskey; and the monks, to their shame, decided to take credit for it.  For those of you wondering, it's also said that the original purpose of this blessed beverage was to keep the Irish from conquering the world.  Whether you believe the truth of such a tales of not, you have to admit that so far it's succeeded.) 

St Patrick himself is said not to have followed quite so strict a path as his later monastic brethren to their heavenly reward, instead choosing a rather more tortuous one; walking a fine line between angering the Celtic heathens he sought to convert and the incurring the ire of the Church he sought to serve.  And since this is ostensibly a day held in celebration of his labors, it would seem all but rude not to recount at least in brief some of his history.

Patrick is in fact quite curious as patron saints go, even Irish ones. Of course this might have something to do with the fact that he wasn't Irish at all, but English instead. He first came to Ireland in chains as a captured slave (which is the manner in which the Irish are said to be most fond of entertaining their sometimes overbearing British neighbors). He escaped his captivity after some six years however and returned to his home in Britain, eventually becoming a deacon, taking his ordination vows as a priest, and later still becoming a bishop. He then returned to Ireland as a Catholic missionary, working mostly in the north and the west of the island. Very little can be proved of the places where he preached and labored, though legends abound of the places he did his teaching and the miracles he performed while carrying out his chosen vocation. 

This missionary work ultimately proved a successful one, and the country remains largely a Catholic one to this day. And while the model of the Catholic Church that he worked toward did not come about while he was alive or even as a result of his labors, he was nevertheless named the Patron Saint of Ireland by the eighth century.

Now Irish tradition holds that St Patrick used the Shamrock's shape to teach the heathen peoples of the island the Catholic mystery of the Holy Trinity, which may explain its popularity as a symbol today. This tale may be more an example of the Irish flair for the 'telling of a good tale" than one of actual doctrinal education however, as accounts of the use of this three-leafed white clover only began to appear in popular myth centuries after his death.

The noted Irish knack for exaggeration and overstatement might likewise be held responsible for the famous accounts of St Patrick chasing the snakes from Ireland's shores, since there have never been snakes in Ireland. (In defense of such myths, it should noted that the Irish seldom let the truth get in the way of a good story.) 

Regardless of the legendary nature of his time on earth (excused as perhaps no more than a wee bit of Blarney), or the fact that he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church, we nevertheless celebrate his feast day every year on March 17th, the date believed to be that of his death in 493.  

(Now such a lengthy retelling of St Patrick is enough to make a man's mouth like a dry crust; which is to say that it creates a powerful thirst in a man.  If for no other reason, this alone would no doubt constitute sufficient reason to stop off at the pub for a pint or two. It might even be said that this affinity undoubtedly accounts in large part for the relationship between the festivities being celebrated around the world and fond telling of tales about the man himself.  It could have nothing to do of course, with fondness the Irish have for a pint or a 'touch of the Irish'.) 

As I have pointed out on previous occasions here, March 17th is also the birthday of one of my grandchildren, Margaret Ruth Tipatina Demaria. So in her honor let me say as well, "lá breithe sona Maggie""Maggie Moo Kropotnik", will be turning seven on this day of ancestral family revelry if my often failing memory still serves me correctly. Rumor has it that they will once again be holding parades in New York City (near where she lives) and in Chicago (where my own roots are) in celebration of this more recent, but equally blessed event.

Strange as it may seem, you will probably not find me making a pub crawl locally on this traditional Irish 'feast day'. For while personal considerations indeed make it a day worthy of all manner of celebration, as I tend to avoid the crowds often attendant to the occasion for fear of losing my professional standing in the enjoyment of Ireland's ethanol-based treasures (though I admit to being rather tempted to make my way down to the 'hooley'  tonight)

In the spirit of the myth and the man however, I am persuaded at the very least, to offer an Irish toast for all of you on this the eve of that day of days for the Demaria clan, for the O'hUig'in clan (the ancestral name of the Higgins), and for that paragon of Irish virtue (such as it is) ... St Patrick. It's a sentiment that should speak to all those who've read enough of their history to know how truly lucky they are to consider themselves Irish; and may even have a bit of a message to those who can only feel so blessed during this blessed time of the year:

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand
And may you live in peace and freedom

All of this may be a bit much for those of you who've long sing begun to pickle yourself through the consumption of green Anheuser-Busch or Miller products in what is undoubtedly a heartfelt, but terribly misguided form of Celtic revelry.  Surely then it will be far beyond the comprehension of those of you who have instead graduated to Car Bombs far too early in the day. (A Car Bomb is a shot of Irish whiskey dropped into a pint of Guinness, with the name coming from the effect that drinking such a concoction in one long swallow normally has on the consumer's brain.) 

So for you hooligans let me offer instead a far more simple effort that you're likely still to comprehend:

"May you be in heaven for two hours before the devil knows you're dead!"


1 comment:

Roland Hansen said...

My Friend, mi amigo, Timothy,
I always enjoy the bit o' blarney you share with your humble admirers. Now, if ye will excuse me, laddie, I need to have a wee bit more of my fine Irish coffee this wonderful sunny Arizona morning.
Oh, and may your fine lassie of a granddaughter have a very happy birthday and bring a lifetime of joy to her tilted kilted grandfather.

Slainte' - Skoal - L'Chayim