Many of the mothers would be up early making Irish bread and oatmeal before heading off to the 11 a.m. Mass which was celebrated by our neighbor, Richard Cardinal Cushing, who was a bishop at the time.
St. Patrick's Day in my neighborhood of South Boston was celebrated with much of the same traditions as in Ireland. Because it was a civic holiday, the children were off from school. Many of the mothers would be up early making Irish bread and oatmeal before heading off to the 11 a.m. Mass which was celebrated by our neighbor, Richard Cardinal Cushing, who was a bishop at the time. Many of the families who attended Mass were first or second generation Irish and the bishop would inspire everyone in the traditional teachings of Jesus Christ. As poor as many of the people were, they always contributed to the African Missions. Irish Catholics recall the earlier days of "Help Wanted" signs appearing in downtown stores, but the sign also contained the word, "no Irish need apply." Even in the "educational center" in America, discrimination against the Irish was openly practiced. We heard these stories as kids growing up.
After Mass, the people would head over to the school hall where hot tea and scones were served. Mothers would often talk about a son in the military, things back home in Ireland, or about a sick neighbor. Fathers would talk about work or a soccer match back in Ireland. A fiddle and accordion player would play traditional Irish music on the stage and several of our neighbors would sing a song. Even as a 7 year old boy, I would go up on the stage and sing "A Mother's Love is a Blessing" and everyone in the hall would join in. By 2 p.m., the party was about to wind down, but not before one of the Irish nuns would lead the gathering in a little story about the life of St. Patrick.
Years later, the celebration of the day would take me to Mass at St. Peter's with Pope John Paul II, dinner with the president at the White House, being grand marshal at the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City, Dublin, and other great world cities, but attending Mass on St. Patrick's Day in my hometown of South Boston with my family and neighbors will always be my fondest memory of "my favorite day of the year."
RAY FLYNN IS THE FORMER MAYOR OF BOSTON AND U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE VATICAN.
Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.