Irish, Shamrocks and God
by Susan G. Mathis
According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau, about 56.7 million Americans say they have an Irish heritage. That’s nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population, and many Irish still retain a sense of their Irish heritage, including me. I love tea, Celtic music, step dancing and the color green.
When Irish immigrants came to the U.S. and Canada, they weren’t looking for a handout. They were looking for hope and a future for them and their children, a topic I cover in depth in my upcoming novel. These immigrants took many of the menial jobs, everything from farming to hard labor to domestic work. And in large cities, the Irish are known for being at the top of the public service sector, especially law enforcement, teaching and firefighting.
The Irish have contributed to the American culture in so many ways: literature, film, art, politics, law, medicine and sports, just to name a few. Irish-Americans you’d know are Walt Disney, Judy Garland, Pierce Brosnan and Presidents such as Kennedy, Reagan, Andrew Jackson and over a dozen others.
So why am I sharing this with you? Because, whether you have Irish heritage or not, you do have a heritage—traditions, beliefs and achievements that are a part of your history. Your heritage has laid a foundation for you, whether you are conscious of it or not. Exploring that heritage will enrich your life, if you take the time to do so.
For me, my Irish heritage runs deep, but I forgot about a lot of it in the busyness of living life. It was everything Irish in my childhood home, and the color green was prominent. I learned a strong work ethic, and my Irishness became a part of me.
So when I started researching about Ireland and the Irish for my novels, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity and Katelyn’s Choice, I realized that my Irish heritage, in a large part, made me who I am today. I assessed all of it—the good, the bad and the ugly—and embraced once again the “Irishness” of my heritage. I am proud to be Irish!
So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, because I’m Irish, and because I just released Katelyn’s Choice, the first in the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, I want to share with you how St. Patrick used a simple weed to share the gospel.
St. Patrick lived in the fifth century Ireland where the shamrock clover was abundant, even a staple food for livestock. The shamrock is a weed that grows quickly and is hard to get rid of. In Ireland it was everywhere, so as Patrick traveled the country, he had a ready-made symbol that he could easily find, pluck and use as a teaching tool. Sounds like something that Jesus would have done, doesn’t it?
As he spoke, Patrick would note that the shamrock has three leaves, just as there are three persons in the trinity. In using the shamrock as a symbol, he taught about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who they were, what they do and how they could change the listeners’ lives. Then, whenever folks would see the shamrock in their garden or fields or yard, their minds would instantly connect to the Trinity and think of God. Brilliant!
As Patrick traveled throughout Ireland spreading Christianity, the shamrock became an important symbol of the Trinity and of God’s work in man’s life. Even today, the shamrock is Ireland’s national symbol and still points to the Trinity as well as to 1 Corinthians 13:13, “and now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.” The number three is so important to the Irish that they use three cords in their Celtic knot, in their three-fold repetitive rhythm of Irish storytelling, in their idea of past, present and future, and a lot more.
So when you see a shamrock during this holiday, remember that it means so much more than just “the luck o’ the Irish.” It represents biblical truth, wise teaching and a beautiful way to share God’s story.
What tools, symbols or stories do you use to share the gospel?
Susan G Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, releases March 15, 2019. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs, enjoys traveling globally with her wonderful husband, Dale, and relishes each time she gets to see or Skype with her four granddaughters. Find out more at www.SusanGMathis.com.
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