St. Patrick's Day 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio, was the greatest day ever. The parade, which lasted 2 and a half hours, featured 16,000 marchers and was viewed by 500,000 people lining Superior Avenue from East 18th Street to Public Square. Usually we are are watching the parade in snow or sleet, under gray skies, a half mile inland from the frozen lake. This year the skies were blue and the temperature hit a record 77 degrees. And the parade was on a Saturday, which allowed more families to attend. The presence of so many families had the side effect of reducing drunkenness and fights. People were very happy, very peaceful all afternoon.
Photos: top shows Bob, Brian, Emily, Linda, Julia, Colin; second shows Brian and Emily; third shows Girl Scouts dressed up as cookie boxes; bottom shows Colleen Fitzpatrick, with other family members in the background, including Mike and Karen Fitzpatrick, Peter Fitzpatrick, and Linda.
March 17, 2013.
This morning Linda and I, along with Julia, Ed, and Colin, attended the St. Patrick's Day mass at St. William's in Euclid (officially now Sts. Robert and William). It was a wonderful mass, a thousand people in attendance, featuring the Irish American Club Fife and Drum Corps along with the Club's women marchers and two bagpipers. Mary Ann Ratchko-Gamez played her extraordinary Irish whistle and flute, and Jack McGarry sang "Our Lady of Knock." I saw many old friends there and was so happy to be there with part of my family.
We didn't go to the parade this year, but I'm sure it was spectacular as usual. One highlight of every parade is the St. Edwards' High School Trashtalkers, a percussion band unlike any other. I have a short youtube video of it from last year's parade (when it was 79 degrees, versus 29 with 4 inches of snow this year!).
St. Patrick's Day 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio--a glorious, wonderful day. At the big Irish mass celebrated at St. Colman's Church on West 65th Street, Fr, Begin said something like this: "We are grateful that God made the first day of spring St. Patrick's Day this year."
It was a warm, sunny day, temperature in the mid 60's (I've spent many a St. Patrick's Day in snow or sleet at the parade, so this was very unusual!). I, along with my brother Jim and two of his kids, Dillon and Quinn, began the day attending mass at the historic Irish church of St. Colman's--a treasure that was almost lost to Cleveland last year when Bishop Richard Lennon tried to close the church in his efforts to downsize the Diocese of Cleveland.
Fr. Dan Begin was the celebrant, helped out by 16 concelebrants (including Fr. Bob Begin, pastor of St. Colman's). Hundreds of people marched into the church to the accompaniment of fifes and drums--most of them from the West Side Irish-American Club. The music at the mass was glorious, with the sound of pipers, piano, and violin. The song selections were the sentimental favorites of Irish-Catholics: "Our Lady of Knock," "All Praise to Saint Patrick," "Danny Boy," and many others. These might not represent the best music created for and by the Irish, but the congregation loved it. We also sang the amazing hymn, "Faith of Our Fathers," and closed with "America the Beautiful." Right before the recessional, the violinist, who was either Sarah Lally Pap or Mary Beth Ions, played a beautiful tune, which sounded to my ear like a lament--possibly the lament O'Carolan composed as he neared the end of his life. How many people packed the church? There wasn't a seat to be found and hundreds and hundreds stood in the balcony and down all the aisles. It was incredible.
One interesting feature of the mass was the Credo, which was spoken in Irish-Gaelic. What was spoken was actually the Apostles' Creed, Cre na nEaspeal (I'll post the Irish text at another date).
St. Patrick's Day 2010.
We (my brothers Kevin and Jimmy, Jimmy's 3 kids, Dillon, Darby, and Quinn, and my daughter Emily and I) had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day in Cleveland, Ohio. We began the day by attending mass at St. Patrick's Church, on Bridge Avenue in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland. St. Patrick's is one of the historic churches of the Irish community in Cleveland. The parish and church are about 150 years old, and the story goes that parts of the immigrants' ship masts are built into the pillars of the old church (we choose to believe that story). Bishop James Quinn was the celebrant, and the mass featured wonderful music, including a stunning performance by pipers and drummers surrounding the altar as mass ended.
Following mass we processed to the old school building, where the parishioners of St. Patrick's provided hundreds of people with a free breakfast. After breakfast, Kev, Em, and I went to the Harp Restaurant in the Edgewater neighborhood of Cleveland, overlooking Lake Erie (still full of floating ice). There I ran into a former student, a Cleveland diocese seminarian, drinking a Guinness with his 2 buddies (also seminarians!). I run into students everywhere, including places I'm not supposed to be at.
After the Harp, we headed downtown, stopping first in the Arcade, a world-class building . . .
What Does It Mean to Be Irish-American?
We call ourselves "Irish"--what we mean is "Irish-American." We should probably leave the term "Irish" for the citizens of that land. So what does it mean to be "Irish-American" then?
It doesn't mean that you drink green beer tomorrow, St. Patrick's Day. That is for amateurs! OK, if you must . . . .
It doesn't mean you celebrate the culture of drinking and drunkenness. Sure, there is enough of that among Irish-Americans. But when it occurs it is often destructive and doesn't honor or celebrate anything.
It does mean that we have roots in a culture rich in storytelling, poetry, drama. We are connected to a culture rich in music.
We have a culture that celebrates friends and family life. In fact, in many Irish and Irish-American families, family is the highest priority--higher than career, money, fame, success. Good family life is success and wealth!
Many Irish and Irish-Americans have a religious tradition. For most it's Catholicism. But there are Jewish, Church of Ireland, Protestant, Quaker, and other varieties of Irish. To me this tradition is precious, despite my disagreements with the official (or officious) Church. It clearly stems from the era of St. Patrick, St. Brigid, St. Brendan. Ireland was indeed "the land of saints and scholars." Irish Catholicism, in earlier days, borrowed a lot from pagan Celtic spirituality. This made the Irish variety of Catholicism more humane and decentralized than the Church of Rome. Of course there have also been strains of super "orthodox" Catholicism--religion in a straightjacket, religion that hated the body, sexuality, and the like. I saw plenty of this growing up, especially in the religious instruction of the Catholic schools of the 1950s.
I see the spirit of Irish-Americans in my extended family. They love each other, honor family above all, are funny and fun, great storytellers. We have kept our religious faith. And yes we celebrate and tip a few on March 17, St. Patrick's Day.
I'm proud to be an Irish-American and gladly share St. Patrick's Day with all the English, Germans, Italians, Slovenians, Polish, Slovaks, Bohemians, African-Americans, Latinos--all the wonderful nationalities that interact in Northeast Ohio, our home.
p.s. My grandson, the love of my life, has many of the nationalities mentioned above: He is Irish-German-French-Italian-Czech, and maybe a bit Polish, with a small dash, possibly, of American Indian. I bet there are other nationalities in his genetic mix, too!