The Irish Catholic Hajj Lived

The trek towards Middle America is daunting in an Econoline van, 700 miles and 11 hours long.  Yet the draw for a 17-strong contingent of Philadelphia area products from the Roman Catholic Church and school systems is irresistible, as witnessed by a core group that has made the South Bend trek to University of Notre Dame football games 17 times now.  

The underside of an obscure card table, inscribed with the names of past participants documents the participants from year-to-year.  Those making the Hajj for the first time dutifully add (R) to their names to signify their rookie status.  We also made habit of marveling at the precision organization, courtesy of Major General (Honarary) Edward Brady (Father Judge ’74), and execution.  Staying out of the way – unless called upon – for fear of ruining the mojo.

The group was not nearly as rowdy as might have been – and probably was – years ago.  Then again most of use are on the downhill side of 50 or below sea-level of 60!  It does seem to mute the wackiness.  The one exception being the call to “Huddle up!!” by Staff Sargeant (Hon) Lenny, a call to imbibe shots of intestinal fortitude.

You learn to celebrate Life more managably as you grow older.

Friday was for a tour of the Notre Dame campus, steeped in history not limited to football.  As a Philly guy, never quite bitten as badly by the ND bug, hearing the story of John Cardinal O’Hara (former Philadelphia Cardinal of the Archdiocese and President of Notre Dame) next to his marble crypt is one example.  The Battle of Gettysburg story of Reverend William Corey, steadying New York’s Irish Brigade in the hours before their date with Destiny at Little Round Top and the wheat field, is quite another.

As for the football experience, the pageantry and loyal following the Fighting Irish inspire is evident at every venue.  For me, the excitement generated by the Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, on Friday particularly with the horn section warming up the crowd inside The Rotunda was simply spectacular!


Saturday, the focus was FOOTBALL … not to be overshadowed by perhaps the nicest stretch of weather shining down on the Best Tailgating Experience ever!  (OK … Honestly the guy with the satellite dish and 40+ inch screen might have an edge here.)  It’s difficult to imagine a better day.

The Miami of Ohio – Notre Dame game was anticlimactic, given the obvious talent gap and the Irish’s ability to step on Miami’ s throat in the 1st Quarter (Final: ND 52 – Miami 17).  But the highlight truly is that there’s much, much more to enjoy at the Notre Dame Football experience than just a lopsided victory!


View of our rental’s backyard in the vicinity of the University of Notre Dame

May the road rise to meet you!

In a previous post on More PC wackiness, I took some local Irish Philadelphians to task for figuratively swinging their shillelaghs at Spencer’s Gifts during a protest at the Franklin Mills Mall over “desecration of the Shamrock”.

Spencer’s crime?  The sale of “Kiss me, I’m Irish” merchandise.

Although I sympathized with their observation that Irish tales of drinking and fighting were a bit overplayed at this time of the year, I also felt they were dangerously close to joining all those ultra-sensitive cultural groups who lose their insert relevant cultural icon here every time someone looks at them crooked.

As an Irish-American several generations removed from life on The Auld Sod, I offered my view that one of the aspects of Irish culture I always found appealing was the Irish’s ability to maintain a friendly demeanor while holding dear their culture and their heritage.  In my humble Americanized opinion the Irish, who are no strangers to natural and man-made tragedies, had refined the ability to survive to an art … an art in the form of a folksy wisdom and an uncanny ability to laugh at themselves.

sheep-ireland_00413062So with those thoughts in mind, here are a few good Irish stories and sayings in tribute to a hardy and agreeable breed of people.  And yes, a few stoudts are included.


May the roof above us never fall in,

And may we friends beneath it never fall out!


Paddy was visiting a large American city.  He was patiently waiting and watching the traffic cop at a busy street crossing.   The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted, “Okay, pedestrians!”  They would all cross, then he’d allow the traffic to resume once again.  He’d done this several times, and Paddy still stood on the sidewalk.  After the cop had shouted, ‘Pedestrians!’ for the tenth time, Paddy went over to him and said, “Is it not about time ye let the Catholics across?”


 Continual cheerfulness is a sign of wisdom.


An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut.  The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest’s breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.

He says, “Sir, have you been drinking?”

“Just water, officer”,’ says the priest.

The trooper asks, “Then why do I smell wine?” 

The priest looks at the bottle and says, “Good Lord!  He’s done it again!”


Here’s to you and yours, and to mine and ours.

And if mine and ours ever come across you and yours,

I hope you and yours will do as much for mine and ours

As mine and ours have done for you and yours!


Mike was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn’t find a parking place.   Looking up to heaven he said, “Lord take pity on me.  If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey!”  Miraculously, a parking place appeared.  Mike looked up again and said, “Never mind, I found one.”


You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.


Walking into the bar, Seamus said to Charlie the bartender, ‘”Pour me a stiff one – just had another fight with the little woman.”  “Oh yeah?” said Charlie, “And how did this one end?”  “When it was over,” Seamus replied, “She came to me on her hands and knees.”  “Really,” said the bartender, “Now that’s a switch!  What did she say?”  “Come out from under the bed, you little chicken!”


Here’s to me, and here’s to you.

And here’s to love and laughter.

I’ll be true as long as you.

And not one moment after.


Sean staggered home very late after another evening with his drinking buddy, Paddy.  He took off his shoes to avoid waking his wife, Kathleen.  He tiptoed as quietly as he could toward the stairs leading to their upstairs bedroom, but misjudged the bottom step.  As he caught himself by grabbing the banister, his body swung around and he landed heavily on his rump.  A whiskey bottle in each back pocket broke and made the landing especially painful.  Managing not to yell, Sean sprung up; pulled down his pants; and looked in the hall mirror to see that his butt cheeks were cut and bleeding.  He managed to quietly find a full box of Band-Aids and began placing them as best he could on each place he saw blood.  He then hid the now almost empty Band-Aid box, and shuffled and stumbled his way to bed.  In the morning, Sean woke up with searing pain in both his head and his butt and Kathleen staring at him from across the room.  “You were drunk again last night weren’t you?”, she accused.  Sean replied, “Why would you say such a mean thing?”  “Well”, Kathleen said, ‘It could be the wide open front door.  It could be the broken glass at the bottom of the stairs.  It could be the drops of blood trailing through the house.  It could be your bloodshot eyes.  But mostly … it’s all those Band-Aids stuck on the hall mirror!”


May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks.

May your heart be as light as a song.

May each day bring you bright, happy hours

That stay with you all the year long.


May this St. Patrick’s Day find you and yours in the best of spirits and at the peak of good health!

(Thanks to Gary K for the jokes! – Cranky … except when I win in poker.)

More PC wackiness

Every once in a while, I have one of those days where it seems that everything I read in the newspaper irritates the bejesus out of me.  Today was one of those days when a number of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer elicited much head-scratching and eye-rolling. 

Allow me to share.

First up was a report from the U.S. Department of Education that claimed that 70% of all in-school related arrests or referrals to law enforcement involved African-American or Hispanic students.  Despite the fact that black students made up 18% of the sample, they comprised 35% of student suspensions and 39% of expulsions.  (Similar data in this vein for Hispanics and other groups was not presented.)

Of course this begs the question as to how such a phenomena occurs and for answers to rectify the situation.  And just as plainly, all the reactions cited in the Associated Press column missed – or simply decided to ignore – the most obvious reasoning.  Instead these commentators focused on why non-minority students were not more equally represented.  In other words, they turn the issue into a Civil Rights issue instead of a parent, student, behavior, respect, and discipline issue!

As so often is the claim, there must be SOME OTHER reason for the aberrant data.  Either the System is applying investigative, enforcement, and punishment unequally across all racial groups or somehow the white people are gaming the schools and The System.

Give me a break!

Could it be that perhaps that African-American and Hispanic students are simply the source of more school crimes, assaults, and general misbehavior in relation to the national school population as a whole?  Could it be that maybe parents in some socio-economic groups simply do not pay enough attention to what their children are doing in and out of school?  Or how they behave and – even more importantly – how they PERFORM in school?  Is it possible that maybe the issue has more to do with values, priorities, and general parental involvement? 

Of course not!  Silly me …


Next up was an unbelievable story out of Cumberland County, PA reported by Sohrab Ahmari, an Iranian-American journalist and associate research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and guest columnist for The Inqy.  The article relates a court ruling last week in the case of a Muslim immigrant that attacked a participant in the Mechanicsburg Halloween Parade, who decided to dress up as a “Zombie Muhammad”.  The incident was witnessed by scores of people; and the defendant even confessed to his part in the attack, where Ernest Pearce, a member of the Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania, was rushed and choked by 46-year-old Talaag Elbayomy.

Open and shut case, you say?!?  Silly, silly you …

But it isn’t the fact that District Judge Mark Martin found the broad daylight, confessed attacker innocent; it was the way the Judge decided to express his own personal views about how the American legal system applies to Muslim immigrants!  Among the findings of Judge Martin were the following Pearls of Wisdom:

  • The REAL victim was Mr. Elbayomy because his religious beliefs were offended. 
  • Mr. Elbayomy could not be expected to abide by American laws simply because he was an immigrant!
  • Mr. Pearce was an insensitive “doofus” (Yes, the judge’s very word!) for “mocking someone else’s religion”.
  • And finally, that Mr. Pearce was lucky he wasn’t hanged or beheaded as would potentially happen if he had the suicidal impulse to perform his imitation of “Zombie Muhammad” in Iran or Saudi Arabia!   

Mr. Ahmari – on the other hand – did an excellent job of explaining why such an irresponsible decision by a judge “… sends the worst possible message to American Muslims … about the rule of law in a free society”.  He explains how many Muslims have immigrated to the U.S. to “escape religious tyranny”.  And in a way Judge Martin’s ridiculous ruling also feeds the paranoia of some Americans who fear the specter of both Muslims and sharia law.

In the parade, Mr. Pearce’s “Zombie Muhammad” was accompanied by another Parading Atheist dressed as a “Zombie Pope”.  Apparently, no Catholics attacked.   


Finally, the Irish-Americans are up in arms over their oppression.  But before you go off seeking a Union Jack to set aflame, it’s not the British this time.  No, it’s Spencer’s Gifts!

Seriously …

Outside the Aqua entrance to Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia, reporter Monica Yant Kinney covered the Irish Anti-Defamation Federation as they handed out green – of course – flyers alerting shoppers to “crimes against Irish culture”!  The problem being hats that say, “Kiss me I’m Irish!” and St. Patrick’s Day beer hookahs.

Even the Philadelphia County Ancient Order of Hiberians got into the act by noting their anger at the annual desecration of the shamrock.

Geez …  desecrating the Sacred Shamrock!

I always considered the Irish a stout, tough breed.  One not given to feeling sorry for themselves or for joining in with all the other ultra-sensitive ethnic groups resentful of how they have been portrayed.  As an American of Irish descent, I have participated in over 30 years of St. Paddy’s Days and never once felt demeaned or offended.   

Certainly the drinking and fighting characteristics of the Irish get overplayed, just as particular legends and physical traits of other ethnicities have for decades.  But I never looked at any of that as demeaning to my heritage.  In fact, I would hazard the opinion that it has actually made the Irish more likable as a down-to-earth people and more sympathetic in those times when sectarian violence tore apart the fabric of Irish culture.

I can understand the reluctance of culturally conservative Hibernians to engage in those stereotypes and activities they see as demeaning to Irish culture.  But it’s equally hard for me to believe that this is suddenly a wrong that needs to be righted.  Although they may see this behavior as devoid of any traditional Irish cultural appreciation, it still makes the Irish a whole lot more fun to be around than just about any other cultural group.

So on this St. Patrick’s Day have a few green-colored cocktails (in moderation of course); grab a platter of corned beef and sauerkraut; and find the movie, The Quiet Man (starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara) on a TV near you.  Enjoy the atmosphere of fun and mirth.  Try to appreciate the Irish culture that Americans of all types have been exposed to each and every year on March 17.  But if you watch my favorite Irish movie, don’t fast-forward through the drinking and fighting scenes that involve Sean Thornton (Wayne) and the local Irish natives. 

Because if you do, you will miss half the movie!


(I hereby pledge – despite this blog’s name – to keep the lawn references to an absolute minimum.  Having said that, I think “Roots” best describes a discussion of where one comes from … a sort of “from the ground up” perspective.  Apologies to Alex Haley!)

Product of lower-middle-to-middle class, blue-collar Irish-American parentage … More American than Irish in a time when most adults in my version of the ’60s and ’70s more readily identified themselves with their hyphenated semi-European ethnicity.  Fact is, they were probably the last generation that relied so heavily on hyphenated Americanism to describe who they were.  But back then in Philly, it was still easy to identify sections of the city as having been at one time predominantly German, Polish, Italian, etc.

Dad was a World War II vet and worked in a steel processing plant – not in one of those huge, imposing steel mills that dotted much of Pennsylvania, making steel from raw ores.  It was more a facility processing steel into finished industrial products (wire, sheet metal, washers, fasteners, etc.).  He worked very hard in a dirty, sweaty environment.  But despite working in a union shop, it often seemed he could barely keep our financial heads above water.  He was a strongly committed and active Roman Catholic, insisting on maintaining his tithe to The Church even when he had trouble making ends meet.  Dad had his faults, but being anything other than a good father wasn’t one of them. 

Mom was a mom, and solely a mom.  Nothing other than wife and homemaker was necessary in describing her.  She stayed at home.  She never held outside employment.  Didn’t have much of an outside life period.  Never even drove a car.  Relied on Dad for everything.  It was remarkable in a way you NEVER see today.  But in the end, it was extremely limiting to her sense of self outside the family.  I never really appreciated what she gave up until Dad passed away, and she was left with no way to do anything for herself.  But as a mom, she was always there.  We always had that presence in the house.  And I honestly can’t recall more than a day here or there when she wasn’t there for us.  It was a sacrifice that’s impossible for me to adequately put to words.

Both Mom and Dad came from HUGE families … the Irish-Catholic way!  It mattered not which side of the family was involved; extended family gatherings were incredibly loud and crowded affairs.  To a kid it was both intimidating and wondrous. Who were all these people?!?

Of course, my parents were also products of The Great Depression (These stories alone could shape a few posts here!) and World War II, which had to be extremely difficult circumstances for large families.  So I often wonder whether that was why – despite their standing as “good Irish-Catholics” – there was only me, my brother Patrick, and my sister Joanne.  But I sure do remember many references to “the rhythm method”!

There is so much more I could go into here … some other time perhaps.  But going only this far, serves my purposes for the moment.