My great-grandfather, God bless his eternal soul, was a man named Austin Walsh. He came to America by way of steam ship and settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. He got a job at the St. Paul hotel as a doorman, and it is there that he met my great-grandmother. She was eleven (having come over to America on her own at age 10).
She was Irish, too.
And they were both Catholic.
By all accounts, they were married when she was eleven (he was somthing like 20), and she had her first live birth at age 12. She had 25 more kids, all of whom lived into adulthood.
My grandpa, Gene, was the fourth oldest. He married my grandmother, the daughter of a MN country doctor who had fled England because apparently it was illegal to do exploratory research on cadavers at the time. The had nine girls and one boy. My mom, Mary Lou, is their third oldest.
I am my mom’s youngest…the youngest of seven.
My one regret in the entire scheme is that my mom lost her Catholicism along the way. Through my wife, I have joined a Lutheran church–Catholic lite, as my friend Mike calls it. Three weeks ago, I attended my Aunt Dolores’ funeral at St. Patrick’s church in the still Irish and still Catholic Phalen area of St. Paul. And for those two hours, I pretended that, like my cousins, I hadn’t lost my Irish Catholic roots.
It felt good. For those two hours, I felt like I had returned home. I was the prodigal son, and though no one else could see it, I was quietly embraced by the place–the environment. And when I wept, it wasn’t for my aunt. Heck, she went onto a better place. In fact, the whole tone of the morning was more celebratory than anything else–she was that kind of person. I wept for me, for years gone by, for missing all of it, for…I don’t know.
I am not certain what I am going to do. I mean, I’m not one who’s really hung up on religion, per se. The bottom line, however, is that I am pretty integrated into my current church community. I love St. Stephen, and the folks there have done so much for us. I won’t throw that away. I can’t. I don’t want to.
But something needs to…happen.
Perhaps I need to pull a Paul (a good friend who is also a member at St. Stephen) and do both. Be Catholic AND be Lutheran. Apparently he does it. I don’t know how. I didn’t think you could BE BOTH.
I am seeing him tomorrow. I will ask him then.
Then, I need to stop back at St. Patrick’s, for that is where I am drawn.
Hmmm…this post was supposed to be about how I started working out again after laying off for a few weeks. I got injured at the end of February, and…ah…who cares? Now all that shit seems insignificant. Strange thing this extemporaneous writing. You never know exactly where it’s going to take you.
I am glad, though, that it took me here.
Today I honor the memory of my Irish forefathers. I raise a glass to them.
I am Irish.
I am Catholic.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.