A Joyful Noise!

U.C.M. Newsletter of Joy, Humor, Laughter, and Inspiration

Slemish, mountain in County Antrim where St Pa...

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Editor: Rev. Doti Boon


Vol. 10 pg 10 (03-10-11)


Irish Spirituality is Unique!

“Scratch a bit at the thin topsoil of Irish Catholicism,” an Irish saying goes, “and you soon come to the solid bedrock of Irish paganism.” And indeed, Ireland is still a “pagan place.”  But that paganism does not conflict with a devout Catholicism that embraces and absorbs it, in a way that seems mysterious elsewhere.  In Ireland, Christianity arrived without lions and gladiators, and survived without Inquisitions.  The old ways were seamlessly bonded to the new, so that ancient rituals continued, ancient divinities became saints, ancient holy sites were maintained not by priestesses but by nuns just as they had been for generations and generations.

Thus the goddess remains alive in Ireland.  For the goddess does not merely remain alive in Ireland – she is Ireland.  “Ireland has always been a woman.” The island still bears her ancient name:  Eire, from Eriu, an ancestral goddess whom the invading Celts met and adopted (or did she adopt them?) around 400 B.C.E.  Ireland is the Goddess.  She is every field still fertile a thousand years after its first cultivation.  She is every river that still floods with salmon despite millennia of fishing.  She is the dancing pattern of the seasons, the fecundity of sheep and cattle, the messages written in the migratory flight of birds.  She is the sun’s heat stored deep in the dark bogs.  She is the refreshment of pure water and of golden ale.  She is living nature, and she has never been forgotten in Ireland.

The sense of Divine Presence in everything created gave the Irish an awareness of Mother/Father God that penetrated all the circumstances of life, the flow of happenings, ordinary and extraordinary.  For to the Gael, the ordinary was to some extent extraordinary and the extraordinary was somehow to be expected.  One moved in an existence that was beckoning to what lay beyond, to a transcendent that was constantly shining through the immanent.  The Celts did not live in a split-level universe at all.  Their perceptions were always awake to new possibilities of vision.  Surprise was the order of things.

A theology that laid down clear boundaries of the natural and supernatural would never do for such a people.  The sacred and the profane could not stand apart.  Looking over the ocean, the Celt would gaze and listen as if in a cathedral:  “That I might see the mighty waves of the gleaming sea, as they chant music to their Goddess in endless movement.”

The old time Celtic epics were not cast aside when Christianity was accepted.  Ancient narrative traditions were seen as part of it.

To foreign visitors the Irish have always seemed a remarkable race-“God intoxicated” as they have been described.  Where does the secular end and religion begin?  It is not a question of interest them.  Everything can carry a blessing with it and everything can become the subject of prayers.  Collections of prayers take in every aspect of the day and night, all the possible doings and journeying.  “If we are better today, may we be seven times better a year from today, in our possessions and our people, secure in the love of the Divine and of the neighbors.”  A prayer to the Goddess asks protection for the flocks:  “Bridget keep the sheep in the smooth valleys and on the gentle grasslands.”  And then, going by a cemetery, these words are said, “I greet you, Christ’s faithful, who are awaiting here a glorious resurrection.”

The fact that the Irish ecclesiastical structure was based for so long not on dioceses but on monasteries closely linked to the regional clans explains the strong sense of community in Irish spirituality.  The wordmuintir, which speaks of love and familiarity, was a translation of the monastic familia or communal family.

During the centuries of terrible persecution, the sense of community reached out to all who suffered.  When almost everyone was threatened with hunger, there was still a concern for the weak and those in even greater destitution.  A blessing before meals asked, “If there should be any poor creature on the road in hunger or thirst, may God send him in to us so that we may share the food with him.”

Now the wonderful ability of a people who cherished the oral transmission of their tradition became invaluable.  The high regard of the Gael for the human power of memory helped to sustain them under oppressive restrictions.

To the son or daughter of Ireland, the most severe of all judgments, the most demanding of all sacrifices, was departure from land and people.  To leave the homeland and go into exile was a kind of dying.  A 16th century writer expressed it thus:  “It is the parting of soul and body for a person to leave kindred and country and go from them to strange, distant lands.”  The enforced wanderings of the Irish, pressed by poverty, persecution and famine, account for the more than forty million descendants of Irish emigration who live in America today.

On March 17 on the Emerald Isle and every part of the globe where the Irish have made new homes, St. Patrick is invoked. “Bail Phadraigh ar a ndeanfaimid—Patrick’s bless in all we do.”


Deep peace of the Running Wave to you.

Deep peace of the Flowing Air to you.

Deep peace of the Quiet Earth to you.

Deep peace of the Shining Stars to you.

Deep peace of the Goddess to you.


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.


An Irishman walked out of a bar – It could happen!


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