US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Speaking Irish

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A good dose of Celtic spirituality comes in witty and wise phrases.

Guest blog post by Renee Gatz

Words are a significant part of the Irish culture and the Irish have relied upon them to help them through their challenges and to keep their faith and sense of humor. As a child growing up in an Irish Catholic household, my mother had an expression—profound, funny and even sarcastic—for all of life’s many occasions. As a child, I did not have the life experience to appreciate their value. Only as I grew older was I able to recognize the way these expressions would come back to me at the appropriate moments to help me laugh, understand, and even survive. 

When your faith is reinforced with positive affirmations, your spirituality grows and the confidence in your ability to address challenges that arise. The Celtic wisdom I learned growing up in my family was invaluable to my growth and development.

For example, when I would become anxious and did not feel life was happening on my time table, my mother would say, “in God’s due time.” That was a subtle reminder that I needed to exercise patience because there was a reason, which I was unable to see, that my desires had not yet come to pass. God knew the right time to have a hope come to be and when it did or did not come to pass, I would understand why I needed to wait or why that wish did not come true. 

When I needed motivating, my mother would say, “God helps those that help themselves,” a reminder that God gave me the strength and intelligence to show my commitment to a dream and that God would be present as I was working to make that dream come true. 

The Celtic wit was present when my mother said every New Year’s Day, “On New Year’s Day you eat pork because a pig roots forward, a chicken scratches back.” This was a positive affirmation to look forward to the blessings in the New Year and not focus on the past.

The wisdom found in their wise words has allowed the Irish to grow and improve not only their lives but their communities as well. As the Irish emigrated from Ireland to the United States, they had only their faith and desire for a better life. The words of wisdom they relied upon gave them the confidence to build a better life and make significant contributions to American society, proving that with your faith and the right attitude anything is possible.

As the child of an Irish immigrant, my mother was influenced by her mother’s words of wisdom. As my mother raised me, she used those same expressions to help me navigate life’s ups and downs. And now I share them with others. I am always amazed when an expression I heard my entire life is new to someone, but just as Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day regardless of their background, so can we all use Celtic words of wisdom.


Guest blogger Renee Gatz is author of Wise Words & Witty Expressions.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.