May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
St. Patrick’s Day is almost here. It is one of my favorite days of the year. It is true that on St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish. The Irish people and their culture have always fascinated me. My Dad instilled a love for the Irish in me and my siblings, which we have successfully passed down to the next two generations. As children, we were awakened every St. Patrick’s Day by a father marching around the house singing McNamara’s Band at the top of his lungs. “Magic” green pancakes, green milk, and sometimes even green milkshakes were part of the day.
Beyond the fun of St. Patrick’s Day, there is something magical about it. Maybe it is the magic of love. While Valentine’s Day is supposed to be the day of love, it has never had that love magic that St. Patrick’s Day has for me. You can’t give someone an Irish blessing of any kind without feeling love, nor can you receive one without that same feeling. How can you possibly not feel good about someone telling you they want trouble to avoid you and your blessings to abound?
Here’s another traditional Gaelic blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand
If that’s not love, then I don’t know what love is! There is no guile, no animosity, no hard feelings, no unkindness, nor mean spiritedness in an Irish blessing. St. Patrick’s Day means love and good will to me. It means love for all. That’s why we are all Irish for a day. The love of the Irish on that day transcends all boundaries. It’s a shame we can’t bottle up that love and spread it around throughout the year.
Irish blessings are really love poems. The love in this poetry is beautiful because it is love for all people. When we talk about “love thy neighbor”, we are really putting into action the old Gaelic blessings. Wouldn’t the world be a lovely place to live if we made these old Irish blessings part of us? If we practiced them every day of our lives, we could spread so much happiness!
I want to look upon my friends and neighbors every day of the year and feel those blessings in my heart for them. I want to look them in the eye and really want for them to have happiness. If I were to get up every morning and promise myself to recite in my mind these two Gaelic blessings as I meet people throughout the day, I’ll bet I would feel better about all those around me. How can you feel anything but love for someone when you are repeating in your mind phrases like, “May the sun shine warm upon your face,” and “May God hold you in the palm of His hand”?
March 17th, goes much too quickly for my taste. If only we could go to bed on the 17th and wake up with that same good will for others the next day, and the next day after that. I think we could do it if we really tried. Maybe if we commit to memory a couple of these Irish blessings and tried them out on our neighbors throughout the weeks and months following St. Patrick’s Day, we would find ourselves on the road to loving our neighbors as ourselves.
St. Patrick was a man who lacked formal education but was a seeker of truth. He had empathy for the poor and the downtrodden. He sympathized with immigrants and refugees. He was always learning, and keeping up with current events. I think there is a lesson there for us. As we commit to blessing others in our lives with feelings of good will, we need to be all inclusive in our thoughts and actions. St. Patrick had been enslaved as a youth, and learned a whole lot about how to face adversity with a good attitude—another lesson we could all learn. St. Patrick was unpretentious and careful not to put material things above the love for others and for God.
So there is more to St. Patrick’s Day than meets the eye. While it is fun to dye rivers green, color our hair green, and use green food color in everything we eat, there are lessons to be learned from St. Patrick and from the day set aside to honor him. The two Irish blessings above are going to be hanging above my desk this year. I hope I will read them often and recommit my efforts to loving my neighbor. Maybe it will enhance my generosity to the poor and the needy. Maybe it will encourage me to smile at someone who may need a smile, or hug someone who needs a hug.
Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.