Green beer? Green rivers? Green clovers? What does any of it have to do with Spirituality? When I lived in Chicago for many years I never ceased to be amazed when every March 17, Chicagoans would turn the river winding through the city a brilliant emerald green. Countless Irish Americans in the city would wear green from head to toe to honor the memory of their patron saint, St. Patrick. Every year I found it intriguing and endearing as the Irish American Catholics in my neighborhood would petition the Roman Catholic Cardinal for a special dispensation during Lent so that they could enjoy their favorite green beverages!
Yes, St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us. As we await the coming of Leprechauns and green beer, we also look forward to the symbolism of the clover leaf – one with three leaves and not four. Three leaf clovers are used to teach the faithful about the “Trinity” – the three-fold understanding of the nature of God. But what I find most intriguing is how so many folks happily become “Irish” for a day. Only a few generations ago, signs would be in so many stores that stated plainly “Irish need not apply.” Today to be Irish and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is a great source of pride. And even more so, it is a day to welcome with generosity and openness anyone who dons the green. What a wonderful ecumenical Spirit! What a change!
We see this, too, as many of us embrace the Mexican traditions of “Cinco De Mayo” and Day of the Dead. Or marking Hanukah or eating the Seder with Jewish brothers and sisters. I wonder how long it will be before the month long Muslim observance of Ramadan with its daily fasting and nightly celebrations will also be embraced more widely. I love that these cultures and traditions are becoming so engrained and incorporated into our communities and consciousness. No doubt this same process of blending happened with my beloved Swedish heritage with our celebration of St. Lucy in December and the gourmet dish of Lutefisk!
I am thankful that the signs no longer say, “Irish Need Not Apply”, but have evolved into “Everyone Is welcome To Be Irish for a Day.” That is a wonderful spirit of ecumenism. The challenge, of course, is to not only join in the green beer or green clothes and not trivialize or colonize other ethnic and culture traditions. I want not only to experience Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day with a taco or green beverage, but to gain a deep appreciation of the Mexican or Irish Cultures and how these great events are woven into the fabric of their cultures.
Article by: Chaplain Chris Beckman, Director of Spirtual Health Services at Ebenezer Ridges Campus
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