|Celebrating St. Patrick's Day |
with my second-born son
I'm Irish, in case you haven't noticed. The red hair kinda gives it away. My brother and sister have red hair, too, but our parents do not, so when we were younger and the whole family went out, say, for dinner, we would inevitably get asked The Question: "Where did you all get your lovely red hair?"
Though we dreaded the question, we had our answer down pat.
"It came with the head," we would reply, smiling serenely.
Our red hair really came from our paternal grandfather whose nickname was Red. He was Irish, and Catholic. My grandmother was not. She'd been raised Protestant, but when Red got sweet on her, his mom wouldn't let Grandma in the house until she converted.
Dad has a lot of stories like that, about the anger and bitterness he saw in some of his Irish relatives. Perhaps that is why we never celebrated St. Patrick's Day while I was growing up. I would tell the kids at school who tried to pinch me, "I don't have to wear green on St. Patrick's Day because I'm Irish." Oh, the logic of youth.
Beginning My Irish Journey
|Ceili dance at a feis fundraiser (I'm 2nd from right)|
My Dilemma: What Color To Wear?
|The Irish flag flies over Hance park during |
the St. Patrick's Day Faire (I'm 2nd from right)
When my friend suggested I should wear orange, I know he just meant that I am not Catholic, which is true. I am not. My parents were both raised Catholic, but were "born again" in college and left the Catholic church to join, for lack of a better term, Protestant churches.
But while I am not a Catholic, I am also not a Protestant.
I am a Baptist.
I say that not as a point of pride but classification. People calling themselves Baptist have been guilty of the same sins as people calling themselves Catholic or Protestant--or Jewish or Muslim or atheist or any other label they want to use to describe themselves. Sin is a human problem, and I am just as susceptible to it as the next person, no matter what I call myself. I do not think that being a Baptist means I am better than a Protestant. It is just a label that better describes my beliefs.
Beginning My Baptist Journey
It wasn't until I was in college that I understood the difference. Before that, I would describe myself as "a Christian who attends a Baptist church." I would sooner use the word Protestant to describe myself than Baptist.
As I said, my parents converted from Catholicism in college, and I grew up attending a wide variety of churches. For various reasons we never stayed at a church longer than a year or so, and when I was a teen my parents, though still firm believers in Jesus Christ, stopped attending church altogether.
|Accompanying the singing at an outreach service |
at ASU with my boyfriend (now husband)
When I turned 20 I decided it was time I took responsibility for my spiritual development, and started attending churches with friends. I got quite involved with one church, where my friend's dad was a pastor, and then started also visiting my boyfriend's (now husband) Baptist church. The pastor there started preaching a series on Baptist history, and for the first time I learned what it actually means to be a Baptist. And I realized that I really was a Baptist; I had been for a long time. (A few weeks ago he covered a lot of the same material in one message which you can listen to here.)
Continuing My Journey
Since then, my involvement with the Phoenix Irish community has continued. I competed in Irish dance for a few years, developing friendships that continue to this day. Then I taught beginning Irish dance at the Irish Cultural Center for four years, retiring when my first child was born. I served on the Arizona Colleen Selection committee, and to this day I do graphic design work for the community. My husband and I traveled to Ireland for our honeymoon, and would love to return someday. We take our kids to the St. Patrick's Day parade every year.
That's why I wear all the colors of the Irish flag on St. Patrick's Day--because I'm Irish. After so many years in the Irish community, I've seen both good and bad in the Irish. We are, after all--whether Catholic or Protestant, Baptist or atheist--human. And as C.S. Lewis (an Irish Protestant, by the way) wrote about being a son of Adam or daughter of Eve, "That is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content."