When Irish???? eyes are smilingMy hope to blog every week got away from me last week…so as the Benedictines are wont to say, “Always we begin again.” So I begin again with thanksgiving that last weekend was the feast day of St. Patrick, a day that has often been a joyful celebration with family and friends. This year was no different. Despite no great assurance of any real Irish heritage, this "Irish wannabe" loves to recognize and celebrate with those who are truly Irish and the gifts that come to us from the Emerald Isle.
My first trip abroad in 1977 was with a first generation colleen who still had relatives living on the “auld sod.” Even though she aspired to stop at every crumbling castle and all the ancient cathedrals and churches, I did my best to convince her of a certain value of visiting a few pubs, partaking of pub grub and sampling Guinness and Harp. We made some good compromises which is a key to getting along with travel companions. The memories of watching Waterford crystal being blown and cut, of kissing the Blarney Stone, of feeling the wind blow off the Atlantic on the Cliffs of Moher and teasing my Roman Catholic friend about St. Patrick’s, Dublin being an Anglican Cathedral are indelible memories—the stuff that builds a foundation for dreaming about another big trip. Slainte!!! I am so glad that my travel companion (who is now in her 90's) and Mother, who has often joined us in our celebrations, and I were able once again to celebrate St. Paddy's Day together.
St. Patrick’s Day always comes during Lent, but I have it on good authority that it is permissible to set aside (at least a little) some of the Lenten disciplines for a real celebration. Our menu this year included smoked trout and Kerry Gold Irish cheddar for appetizers; a main course of Corned Beef with cabbage, rutabagas and carrots; Colcannon and Soda Bread. For dessert we had Chocolate Irish Whiskey Cake and Irish coffee. There was the mandatory singing of My Wild Irish Rose, Peg of my Heart and McNamara’s Band (our family always sings loudly and proudly on the verses concerning Uncle Yulius who came from Sweden (Yea!!!) to play the big, bass drum.
But after St. Patrick's Day, it is still Lent. And so we begin again. This season has been a time for me to grow in compassion toward myself, as well as in gratefulness for all things. Several things have been helpful in that regard. Each night before dropping off to sleep I spend some intentional time thinking about the moments when I felt most alive (joyful, happy, aware, in touch) as well as the times when I felt that was being sucked dry. I consider what I was most grateful for and what I was least grateful for. What contributed to feeling happy and when did I feel sad?
Playing with knives cuts away cares and stress
Honoring ways of playing and relaxing, letting go of stress and tension has made me aware just how much I enjoy cooking, planning a dinner, arranging the table and most especially the catharsis of sharpening my knives and slicing, dicing and chopping. Cares drop off like leaves in autumn.
A portion of a sermon by Br. David Vryhof of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist has provided a daily source of meditation which has been very helpful to me. I quote it below.
“Whether you are a success in the world’s eyes or a failure, you belong to God.
Whether you achieve all you hope for in life or few of your dreams come true, you belong to God.
Whether you were born into a happy home or a troubled one, whether you’ve had a comfortable life or you’ve struggled all the way, whether you’ve been much loved or largely ignored, you belong to God.
And God has said that you are precious in his eyes and he loves you, that nothing in heaven or on earth or under the earth can ever separate you from the love with which God now holds you.
You need not regret the past or fear the future. You belong to God.
You need not conform yourself to the opinions of others or struggle to win their approval. You belong to God.
You need not grasp for riches or fame or success or power in order to find meaning and purpose for your life. You belong to God.
You need not be afraid of failing or falling or fumbling in life. You belong to God.
Your name is carved in the palm of his hand. God will never forget you, never abandon you, never leave you. You belong to God.
‘What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.’”
Colcannon1 pound of kale or cabbage
1 pound of potatoes, peeled
2 small leeks or a bunch of green onions
1 cup milk (or better, cream)
½ cup butter
Salt, pepper and mace (a pinch)
Boil the potatoes in salted water, until done enough to mash.
While potatoes are cooking, finely chop the kale/cabbage and slice onions/leeks and simmer them together in the cream for five minutes.
Drain the potatoes and beat them well. Then add the cabbage and leeks to the potatoes, beating them until it is a pale green fluff, adding the salt, pepper and mace. Do this over low heat.
Pile the mixture into a deep warmed dish. Make a well in the center and pour in enough melted butter to fill the cavity.
This can all be done ahead, (except for the melted butter) and warmed in the microwave just prior to serving.
Life, like Colcannon, is a mixture of the ordinary handled with care and served with love. Even the moments of being “beat” helps to produce something good and fulsome, helping us to remember to whom we belong.