St. Patrick's Day fell just five days after Pope John Paul's apology for the Roman Catholic Church's misdeeds over the past 2,000 years.
Those two thoughts simmered around in my head like a warm Irish stew, bubbling up ideas about religious tolerance and the healing of old wounds. It made me reflect on why my enthusiasm for the March 17 holiday is only lukewarm.
I don't mean to be a killjoy. I've thrown St. Patrick's Day parties and hoisted a glass or two of green beer. I also relish the stories of my own family's Irish characters. I'm certain the O'Rourkes, Gallaghers, Hobans, Bradleys, McMullens were noble families, one and all.
The Feast of St. Patrick is a great excuse for a celebration but I'm leery of some Irish-Americans who take it all a bit too seriously.
The so-called good old days, when priests were plentiful and Irish-American neighborhoods were close-knit communities, had their down side.
Along with the tales of Irish charm and fortitude under tough economic circumstances there was a lot of narrow-mindedness in those good old days.
Catholics and Protestants didn't trust each other. They didn't like each other. They certainly didn't marry one another. The prejudice ran both ways and stories about who started it sound pretty silly after all these years.
While religious factions continue to battle in Ireland the relationships between Catholics and Protestants in America are a hundred times better than they were half a century ago. Both sides have timidly inched toward the other and discovered that neither one is wearing the horns of the devil.
My parents grew up in very different Irish Catholic communities -- one in a tiny farm town in Nebraska and the other in Chicago. Although they shared an Irish heritage and a religion they never bought in to the unwritten rule that called for Catholics to stick with Catholics.
They ended up moving to a cold state filled with Scandinavians and German Lutherans and never regretted it.
My parents told my siblings and I a hundred funny stories about our Irish-American ancestors but never filled us with the idea that we were any better than anybody else because we were Irish or Catholic.
And so, on Friday, the radio disc jockeys trotted out their phony Irish brogues and I thought about how much better off we all were to have let go of at least some of our old prejudices.
Tidbits and jottings
Why would the Legislature bother to offer lifetime hunting and fishing licenses? They've sold lifetime marriage licenses for years and most of the customers treat those items as temporary learner's permits.
On a trip to San Francisco this winter a young clerk was making small talk with me and asked where I was from.
"Minnesota," I replied.
"That's near Oregon isn't it?" the young clerk asked sincerely.
We get tourists from all over America in the Brainerd lakes area but a pickup truck parked at Baxter's Country Kitchen bore a Hawaii license plate. Now how did that driver get across the Pacific?
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