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Celebrating St. Brigid

“April Fifteenth is,
I must confess,
A great big pain
In the I.R.S.”
“Lower Back Pain” from a supermarket tabloid

Last Monday, Hubby and I drove to Quincy because we had an appointment with our tax man and friend Frank, a retired Boston School teacher who knows just how to handle the teachers’ dues, retirement income, medical expenses, etc. We dreaded collecting all the pertinent information before our appointment, but Frank handles everything so we are relieved after spending just an hour with him.

On Thurs., Jan. 24, Hubby, pal Eileen Burke, and I drove to the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton. It was the first luncheon since Christmas and we were anxious to see all our pals once again. One of our gals, Kathleen White, told us that this was a special day because it was a special birthday for her. We also discovered that it was the birthday of our musician for the day, Mossy Coughlin. Then we found out that it was also the birthday of Sister Marguerite. When our chaplain, Father John McCarthy, began Mass, he mentioned that it was a new year and a great time to change. He said his resolutions were “to eat less” and “to exercise more.” Most of us agreed and laughed with him. He told us to remember, “What is past is past.” He also advised us: “To take each moment as it comes.” We all wished to change some things. He noted that the church’s new year begins at Easter.

As soon as Mass was over, the luncheon food was served: baked cod, rice, carrots, salad, a roll, assorted sweets, coffee, and tea. As I stood in line for the buffet, I was happy to see Margaret Jenkins at the luncheon. I’ve know Margaret since we first met through the Dorchester Board of Trade years ago. Before we left the luncheon, Father McCarthy reminded us that the celebration in honor of St. Brigid was to be held on Feb. 2.

On that Saturday, Hubby, daughter Sue, pal Eileen, and I did attend the celebration for St. Brigid. It is such a nice time each year. We were early when we entered Father Lane Hall at St. Brendan’s so we had our choice of tables. In came our Irish luncheon friends, Peg, Barbara, and Ronnie, who sat with us. Our longtime friends and former neighbors Gregory and Sarah came in and also sat with us. What a great table we had. Quite a few younger children were over at the side of the hall, learning how to make St. Brigid’s crosses with pipe cleaners. In actuality, the crosses should be made from rushes. According to legend, the cross protects the home from fire and evil. (Our St. Brigid’s Cross hangs over the kitchen sink.) The four corners of the cross point to all four corners of the earth.

Father McCarthy, the Irish chaplain, came over to our table and sat with us for a few minutes. He was ill and was very close to losing his voice. The hall filled quickly as it came closer to 5 p.m., when Father was to celebrate Mass, which was to include a pageant, performed by children, telling about the many wonders of St. Brigid. She was known for her kindness and compassion for people. (She was called “A Woman of Peace” and the “Patroness of Kildare.”) She was baptized by St. Patrick himself. We were told that St. Brigid loved the small blue cloak that she had since childhood. When she approached the king of Leinster to ask for land to build a monastery, he refused her. (She considered the site the perfect spot on which to build.) She prayed to God to help soften the king’s heart toward her request. She then asked the king to give her the amount of land that her little blue cloak could cover to build a monastery. He laughed and agreed to her request because the cloak was so small. Brigid asked four friends to hold one of the four corners of the cloak and to each walk in a different direction. The cloak enlarged and miraculously spread over many acres. The king was so impressed that he granted her the land and became a convert. St. Brigid’s feast day is celebrated on Feb. 1, which is the day that is considered the first day of spring in Ireland. By the way, one of the earliest bulbs to flower each year is the snowdrop, which is called “St. Brigid’s footstep.” After Mass was finished, Father McCarthy kindly used his quickly-fading voice to bless the throats of everyone attending the celebration.

After the Blessing of the Throat ceremony was finished, the food buffet was served. There was either shepherd’s pie or beef stew to chose from, or both if you asked. We must credit those who planned the celebration; they cooked all the food, much of which was donated, to save money. The food was excellent. The desserts, from both Fratelli’s and Roche Bros. in Quincy, were excellent, also.

I must mention that copies of the flags of all the counties of Ireland were taped up on one of the walls of the hall. Hubby went over and took photos of the flags of Counties Galway and Cork (his family’s heritage) and those of Counties Mayo and Down (my family’s heritage). St. Brigid’s Celebration is such a pleasant time at a dreary time of year.

Thanks to my pal Nancy, who sends me St. Brendan’s bulletin each week, I learned that the children who attend St. Brendan’s School will be donating food to the Food Pantry during Lent. What a great thing to do. Thanks to those students! I also want to thank Julie from St. Gregory’s, Judy from St. Mark’s, Trudy from St. Ambrose, and the crew at St. Ann’s, who all send me their church bulletins each week so that I may put in the Notes column things that may be of interest to those outside their parish.

I am surprised that our neighbors didn’t hear Hubby and me laugh as we listened to Paul Sullivan on the Irish Hit Parade on radio Station WROL last Saturday. Paul mentioned that this was a British song, sung by the Clancy Brothers, in introducing it. The name of the song is: “They’re Moving Father’s Grave To Build a Sewer.” We laughed for five minutes. I checked the song on “Google” and laughed some more as I read the rest of the lyrics. Check it out.

This past Sunday, Hubby had put in a tape to record the Oscars’ program. We were especially interested in the tribute to the James Bond movies. We have been fans of the Bond movies since they began 50 years ago, with “Dr. No.” Daughter Sue called us to watch, just as Shirley Bassey began singing “Goldfinger,” from the movie of the same name. Hubby and I were thrilled with her voice. She, at age 76, is just as terrific now as she was at 27 when she sang the movie’s theme song in the 1964 movie. The audience attending the Oscars’ ceremony thought so, too, because they gave her a standing ovation this year. Years ago, Shirley had a short-lived series on TV. We loved her voice so much that we recorded the programs. Hubby knows where they are stored so we will take them out some evening soon and watch them.

I was sorry to hear, from pal Eileen, of the death of Noreen (O’Connell) McLaughlin on Feb. 15. Noreen was well known to the children in the area because she taught the toddler program with Carolyn Lynch at the Murphy School for years. She was the daughter of Chuck O’Connell and the late Theresa (Colter). I send my sympathy to her husband William and to her children, Shannon, Billy, and Emily. She was the sister of Patricia Lee, Daniel O’Connell, Mary Ann Conlon, Katherine O’Connell, and, Ellen O’Connell. I also send my sympathy to Chuck and his wife Nancy. Although Noreen lived in Westwood, her funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Ann’s in Neponset. Father Sean, pastor of St. Ann’s, at the Saturday afternoon Mass following her funeral Mass on Wednesday, said that the church was more filled for Noreen’s Mass than for Christmas because she was so well liked.

Eileen Burke and I were so glad that we were able to attend the wake of our longtime friend Stephen “Steve” Graham at O’Connor’s. Steve passed away on Tues., Feb. 19, at age 91. I smiled when I heard that he had enjoyed having breakfast at Gerard’s with his son Brian on the Saturday before his death. (That’s the way I want to go, after enjoying a meal at either Gerard’s or at Sullivan’s at Castle Island, now that Sully’s is open for the season.) I was so pleased to speak with Steve’s daughter Peggy, with his son Steve Jr., and his wife Melissa, and with Brian and his wife Barbara. Steve and his lovely wife, Catherine “Marie,” were also the parents of the late Catherine “Cathy” Flaherty. Daughter Sue has an especially fond remembrance of the Graham grandchildren because she babysat for most of them when she was a teenager. I know that Peggy and many of the family members spent a great deal of time with Steve since his dear Marie passed away on June 10; they never let him be alone following her death. Our whole family sends its sympathy to his children; Peggy, Steve and Melissa, and Brian and Barbara, to his many grandchildren, and to his 13 great grandchildren. As Peggy said, in her wonderful eulogy at the funeral Mass, “He is now back holding his wife Marie’s hand.”

I loved the following, written by A.A. Milne: “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”