Oakland church

St. Patrick’s Day & Irish Blessings

green cloverSt. Patrick’s Day should be a celebration, one that surpasses the kind of ecstasy reached with one too many green beers. This year may St. Patrick’s Day be an occasion to bless and be blessed and a moment to remember the Spirit that draws us to one another in celebration and in sorrow.

To bless someone, in the most literal sense of the word, is to confer your hopes to them. That’s why so many traditional blessings begin with the word “may.”

Take, for instance, what is perhaps the best-known Irish blessing (or toast, as the case may be this time of the year):

© Mircala | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Mircala | Dreamstime Stock Photos

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

“May” doesn’t mean “so be it.” May implies that something is possible, but not a done deal. May hopes that God puts it in play and that you get out of your own way and allow it to happen.

John O’Donohue, the great contemporary Irish poet/philosopher (and former Catholic priest), knew the power of “may”, and the power of blessing.

Here is a video montage accompanying John reading his poem called “Beannacht”, which means “Blessing” in Irish (from O’Donohue’s Echoes of Memory):

Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

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