St Patrick’s Day 2018, Who are the Irish?

For many St Patrick’s Day is a day of celebration.  The motivation for these celebrations varies – for some it is primarily a religious occasion because Saint Patrick came to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel in Ireland.  For others it is an opportunity to promote trade and commerce – brand Ireland so to speak.  For some others it is an occasion to be enjoyed by attending a parade or some sporting event.  The common thread running through all of this seems to be a celebration of Irish identity.

Are we really sure what it means to be Irish?  A short answer is that whoever carries an Irish passport, or has a right to carry one, can be identified as Irish.  But that is surely a very bureaucratic interpretation of identity.  There must be something more to it than that.

Some people, in search of their identity, point to their differences with others.  But that may not be very helpful either.  If we say, for example, that the Irish are a welcoming people we scarcely mean to imply that other nations are not.  While there are undoubtedly differences between the peoples of various countries, let us not forget that we share a common humanity.

Irish identity today is scarcely the same as it was a generation ago.  Some of the factors which influence that change are: greater access to third level education, the arrival of many migrants, the changing patterns of religious practice, the influence of social media, the diminishing population in many rural areas, the unprecedented growth of some towns and cities, and the challenges faced by families.

So, what does it mean then to be Irish?  Let’s put it this way: it means to be the kind of person you are or I am, or the kind of community that we are, if we claim to be Irish.

This begs some questions:

Are we welcoming, irrespective of the background or origin of the other person?

Are we sensitive to the needs of the poor and the vulnerable?

Are we respectful of difference, tolerant of others and their points of view?

Are we a prayerful people, who have a religious conviction?

Are we committed to a community and helping it to grow?

What kind of Ireland do we want to see emerge in the coming decades?

Are we hard working people?

In what ways do we allow the Gospel to influence our way of living?

On the basis of our answers, what, then, does it mean to be Irish?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day