Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Irish Roots

Sunday we (at least we in America) will celebrate St Patricks Day – everyone will be Irish for the day!  Several years ago, I had the opportunity to do some research into my family roots and found a few Irish threads in my personal tapestry.

The vast majority of our Irish ancestors emigrated to America during the great Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800s and most were Catholic.  My ancestors were neither.  They came much earlier ... in one case the family came in 1657 ... and all were Protestant.   My more recent migrants came from Ballymena, County Antrim in 1738.  Men from these family lines fought in the American Revolution and were among many families who became the foundation for our country.  My 4th great-grandmother’s brother was a lawyer in New York state and was an active abolitionist who helped to create the NY routes of the Underground Railroad. 

When we see the Irish portrayed in movies and tv, we most often see warm, friendly and spirited people who normally possess natural gifts of conversation, humor and art.   They are as ethereal as Celtic pipes but with strong sensible roots.  They are fighters who stand up for their beliefs and courageous in the face of daunting odds.  When I read the biographical information about my own ancestors, I see many of these traits, for it took these traits to pioneer a new land.

So on Sunday, I will celebrate my Irish heritage.  Not quite like others – I won’t be drinking green beer or reveling in a green party hat.  But I will enjoy the quiet memory of those who came before and left a heritage of strength, courage and integrity.  As it happens, it will be my Sunday to play piano at church, and in their honor, I think I’ll play this Irish hymn, which characterizes their lives:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.