“Begorah St. Pat” by Anne Stewart Helton

Shamrocks, Parades and Green hats…oh my! You have no idea what you did St. Patrick!!

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Those of us who are of Irish descent, and those who claim to be, go crazy this time of year. March 17 is our day to celebrate you, St. Patrick, and we do it up big. We have Parades, we wear green, or get pinched, we put a little brogue in our speech and we think lovely, magical, leprechaun, gnome, thoughts. You bring out the Spring in us, you bring out some family heritage, you cause us to remember our ancestors who struggled to come to an exciting America and you even bring out some spiritual sayings and family rosaries. You cause us to long for our roots, our home, our Baile. You help us remember the importance of our connections and friendships with one another, our Cara. Perhaps that is why everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s day. We long for that friendship.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot…you bring out many a pint in the pubs for those who want an excuse to toast! Unfortunately that aspect has perpetuated many a stereotype…o’ those Irish! We are wistful, romantic, feisty and brave people and we love our words, toasts and stories. One of our favorites is: “May you be in heaven a full half hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.” We hold strong to traditions and legends, even when we know they maaaay not be true! But, of course, we know there are no real leprechauns but, oh my, don’t ask us not to tell the stories of the wee-ones to sleepy bed heads of children. And, of course we know that you didn’t drive the snakes out of Ireland as there were no snakes in Ireland but you know what??… that devil can be a snake and you sure stood up to him!! We know you weren’t actually born in Ireland but most of us claiming to be Irish weren’t either! Also, we know there are no pots o’ Gold at the end of a rainbow but, you know what??… many a beautiful field or home is at the end of a Rainbow.

For a Saint, who wasn’t even officially canonized by Rome, you sure caused a lot of commotion.

There was so much more to you, St. Patrick, than all the green fun we have on March 17th. You have become a cracked mirror for how we would like to live. Perhaps it’s because you lived an adventurous, spiritual life but with great purpose and legacy. Being born in Britain and then captured by Irish Pirates as a Teenager, you would hold up to any Johnny Depp movie, especially as you ended up as a slave, herding sheep in a land of pagans! Perhaps it’s because you knew what it was like to be held down or held back but you continued to fight the good fight between good and evil, paying attention to a dream from God, escaping from the Irish slaveholders and going back to your homeland. But, perhaps it is mostly because even after much adversity you remained humble and followed the vision of returning to Ireland as you heard the voices crying from the people: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”  You sought to focus on God, to go and help the people of Ireland, using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, and arriving back in Ireland in 433. Some say you were smart politically in your methods however you lived a humble life converting Ireland as you built Churches and taught others to do the same.

Flowering Esperanza – HOPE

We thank you, oh mighty spiritual patron Saint of Ireland for giving our ancestors Hope and for still being around for all of us in this day of cynicism. For our protection, faith and trust in God, help us to always keep the poem attributed to you, “The Breastplate”,  in our hearts and homes.

“….Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friends and stranger….”

And then join with us in spirit St. Pat, on our silly, fun-loving day of March 17th as we wear green, lest we get pinched, and we smile a little bigger with the luck o’ the Irish on our side! We Irish still have sayings for everything. So, then at midnight on March 17th, I’m sure if my Gaelic speaking Grandmother, Mary Catherine O’Gallagher,  from County Mayo, Ireland was still alive, she would give thanks to God and to you and say something like :

Mol an latha math mu oidhche”….“Praise the good day at the close of it”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Oh What a Tangled Web…” by Anne Stewart Helton

we weave. When first we practice to deceive!“…such a powerful quote from the Walter Scott poem Marmion (1808). And such a powerful message for this crazy Halloween day of 2016, which is full of scary times and deception.

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Halloween, as many of our other holidays, has an origin full of mystery, superstition and celebration. It has one foot in life and one foot in death, with a wide crevice in-between. In some ways a description of our times. In the ancient Celtic days, the new year was celebrated on November 1st, at the end of Summer and the beginning of Harvest time. It was full of festivals and bonfires, it was especially aligned with the festival Samhain and people would dress up in costumes to ward off roaming spirits perceived to be plentiful this time of year. The ghosts of the dead were thought to roam the earth and cause havoc and with winter approaching for these struggling folks, the fear of lost crops and darker days prevailed. Then in the 8th Century, Catholic Pope Gregory III officially merged Samhain with a spiritual message and designated November 1st as All Saints Day. The Church brought a spiritual anchor to the season, which allowed for a focus on the positive, that is, a day to honor good Saints or loved ones who had died. And the evening before November 1st became All Hallows Eve and later Halloween, eventually losing much of its original reverence for dead souls. Through the years as Halloween came to America, along with the immigrants, Halloween became more of a time of fun for children and adults through door to door trick or treating for candy, a time for neighborhood parties and adults acting out fantasies and fun. Sometimes it is celebrated by taking sweet ghosty flowers or candy to neighbors or seniors to brighten their night with memories. It is more of a community event now.

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Sometimes Halloween discussions become a battle between people worried about the obsession on evil and death versus the focus on good or heavenly matters. It is also clear from movies and TV that people “like” to be scared and overcome fears through movies and stories. But also we witness that some people more readily believe in evil, in zombies, in ghosts and vampires rather than in the goodness of God, Love, Angels, and Saints. This observation predominantly points out that we do need to watch how much of the culture of death we allow into our lives!  But mostly Halloween is just a fun night of sharing and hoping everyone has a safe experience. However, even my dog Sheila is wary of the neighborhood decorations!

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There are scary visuals everywhere in our neighborhood to celebrate “trick or treat”; or the dia de muertos and they are reminders of trickery and deception. But after walking through the neighborhood today and then watching the news of political intrigue over the last several weeks, nothing could be scarier than the tangled web of deception that has been woven over all of our heads during the 2016 presidential election. It feels like what must happen in the brain when Alzheimer plaques get sticky and grow, blocking our thinking and logic. It is common lately to hear people saying the phrases “my head is spinning” or “these lies and the spin are driving me crazy”. Again, a reminder of the Walter Scott epic poem; as we watch the webs be woven around words of deception.

When, oh when, will any of us learn that it’s not the lie that gets us but usually the cover-up! We saw this roll out politically during the Watergate investigation years ago as we watched a President resign due to covering up evidence. Of course, Watergate seems like a playground now as we deal with secret computers, hidden e-mails, disrespectful verbal behavior, sexting…UGH!…and pay to play allegations! Which used to mean if you give me some of your candy, you can be on my kick-ball team!

Most of us grew up being told by our Parents, “just tell me the truth and you won’t get in trouble”. It was hard to believe and harder to do as Parents ourselves. Everyone makes mistakes, but it does seem that now it is more about “just get away with whatever you can and the truth be damned”. Obviously truth can be perceived or rationalized by the beholder however it seems pretty clear that in most things, certain behaviors either happened or they didn’t. Sadly, in the natural world, it seems people will more readily say anything to win, even in an argument or an agenda and that people do often choose evil over good. This does leave us wondering how very tangled and choking the webs of deception can be, especially when we weave them ourselves with our own behaviors and words.

So, what should we do during scary times?? Well, 1 Peter 5:8 tells us: Stay Alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour”. 

Now, that IS really s.c.a.r.y!!

So, perhaps Halloween can be a special one this year and we can read Ephesians 6:13 and put on a protective costume that will serve us at all times of the year, no matter what.  “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

And….let’s teach the kid’s, even on Halloween that they can stand their ground too…Happy Halloween to all but also Happy All Saints Day!

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