“Did you get any shamrock?” Granny fussed as she donned her best coat, hat and shiny shoes to go to Mass. She was delighted when my father presented her with a corsage of the three-leafed botanical and after grasping it carefully, she pinned it to her lapel. It was St. Patrick’s Day and although Mass didn’t excite us kids, the promise of a trip to watch the parade in town afterwards and eating green ice cream did.
“Did you get any shamrock?” Granny fussed as she donned her best coat, hat and shiny shoes to go to Mass. She was delighted when my father presented her with a corsage of the three-leafed botanical and after grasping it carefully, she pinned it to her lapel.
It was St. Patrick’s Day and although Mass didn’t excite us kids, the promise of a trip to watch the parade in town afterwards and eating green ice cream did.
At school we had been dunked in the story of St Patrick for a week, learning that he was brought to Ireland as a slave, lived there for six harsh years as a shepherd and eventually escaped.
However, legend has it that Patrick ‘heard’ the Irish people beckoning him back. So he returned as a missionary to encourage the Irish to eschew paganism and become a Christian nation. The anniversary of St Patrick’s demise is March 17th hence it has become a cultural and religious holiday in reverence to his legacy. No matter how often I heard the story, as a child, I loved hearing it again. It was what I call a “tell me again story.”
So what’s the meaning of the shamrock, you might well ask?
St. Patrick taught a concept of the Christian Trinity which is tricky to comprehend. It’s the idea that God has three facets – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Legend has it that St. Patrick, having no access to PowerPoint, plucked a tiny green three-leafed clover to demonstrate the three-in-one concept of the Christian Trinity.
As a result, the shamrock has become a renowned Irish symbol although the harp is the official Irish emblem. Anyone who is familiar with Aer Lingus will have noticed the shamrock logo proudly embellishing the rear fins of its planes. And if you’ve found yourself wandering around the duty-free awaiting your flight from an Irish airport, you’ll have discovered an abundance of crockery and trinkets adorned with images of shamrock in lone sprigs or trailing across the piece.
However things could have been very different with no green beer, green ice-cream or even St. Patrick and March 17th being just another day in the calendar.
Hopefully you’ll have realised by now, that I’m neither qualified nor inclined to offer a lesson in Christianity here. Instead I’m fascinated by the power of story.
So, imagine that St. Patrick had orated with the backdrop of a modern slide deck. Behind him you’d have seen a natty three-circle Venn diagram representing the facets of the Holy Trinity with God emboldened in the middle to spotlight the hierarchy. Then, taking his laser pointer he’d have ‘walked us’ through the concept.
Of course he’d have been unable to resist whizzing us, by now a bewildered audience, through the rest of his burgeoning deck with his remote control clicker. He’d have delighted in the volumes of lore that he could espouse, slide after slide, peppered with stick men scratching their heads. Reveling in his chance to rattle on and on, our sinking bodies and drowsing energy would have evaded his attention.
The blessing is that St. Patrick didn’t have any sophisticated electronic presentation tools to hide behind. So he innovated and plucked a little clover plant – called a shamrock and simply told his story.
That was nearly 2,000 years ago and since then his wisdom has been handed down through the ages while his prop – the shamrock has become an Irish emblem and an icon.
Today St Patrick’s Day is still celebrated. However it has also become a brand, backed by a powerful narrative about St Patrick’s journey. He might be flattered and horrified at the same time. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful example of the power of storytelling to make an impact and be memorable.
About The Tao of Storytelling:
The Tao of Storytelling is a wisdom memoir that follows Claire Taylor’s transformational journey to discovering the hidden treasure in her personal stories. Each of the 30 tales carries a powerful message as well as practical exercises to help you find your treasure and transform your life.
Claire believes that the stories we tell about ourselves – whether or not we’re conscious of them – are the stories that we live by. These stories can empower us or disempower us – but the good news is that once you become aware of them you can become the author of your own life.