Before the St. Patrick’s Day run this past weekend, two lovely Irish nuns were introduced as the honorary parade marshals. They are returning this summer to their homeland after teaching in the United States for eighty years collectively. Sister greeted the thousands of runners donned in green clothing with a mighty “céad míle fáilte” – Gaelic for “a hundred thousand welcomes.” The temperature was perfect, the skies clear, and a festive feeling was in the air. Yes, everyone seemed to be celebrating (and drinking) all thing Irish. I even heard a homeless man yelling “Erin go bragh” after someone gave him a green hat. The color of his skin indicated that he was probably not of Irish descent.
Those who know their Irish history understand how the tricolors of the Irish flag represent both a sad history and a lofty goal. The color green symbolizes Catholicism and Irish republicanism. The orange represents Protestantism and those who supported King William II of the House of Orange. The white, of course, signifies peace and the belief that the two cultures can live and work together in peace. Compared to past decades of fighting and bloodshed in the Emerald Isle, the past decade has been peaceful. Not perfect, my Celtic friend commented, but there seems to be an underlying respect that was absence before.
As I reflect on the current divisions within the United States, it is apparent that we need more solidarity (white) between the red and blue. In Christianity, white is a color associated with baptism since it is believed to wash away the original sin of Adam and Eve. Original sin, as a nun in my grade school explained, is our tendency to like sin and division. White also signifies the hope that we have in a brighter future, namely, eternal life. Let’s start by adding a little more respect to counter the “póg mo thóin” attitude that prevails today. I’d hate to think those sweet nuns are leaving a country worse off than when they arrived.