Hanging on the wall in my Galway Bay vacation cottage is the traditional Irish Blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
This is a very famous blessing for good reason. Who wrote it? No one knows, as the great majority of Irish history is undocumented. Yes, the Irish monks were excellent historians and wrote down what they could – even saving the early Christian texts and Roman-era documents they passed on to continental Europe as it recovered from the barbarian invasions. But the vast majority of Irish, and their frequent invaders were illiterate and maintained a spoken, not written history until modern times.
This most famous of Irish Blessings is often attributed to St. Patrick. But in this land, almost everything that is good has been attributed to St. Patrick. Pilgrims spend an entire day hiking up a steep mountain in the Connemara region to perform Hail Mary rituals and prayer at three separate stations to honor the place where the great saint rang his bell and banished all snakes from the island. Of course, this is an analogy for driving the non-believers away. But in the Catholic tradition, this miracle actually happened on that mountain peak. Who is to say this is truth or analogy if nothing was written down?
Written language is now an under-appreciated blessing bestowed upon most of us. All of us could write more – or better – when given the opportunity. And I will write more (and hopefully better) from now on as well.
In the meantime, my Irish-decended wife and I bestow a lesser-known but equally beautiful Irish blessing upon you, and especially upon our beloved old German shepherd girl, Tessie who died last night while we were not there to comfort her:
May you always have work for your hands to do,
May your pockets hold always a coin or two,
May the sun shine bright on your windowpane,
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you,
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
Suaimhneas síoraí dá hanam