With US president Joe Biden visiting Ireland, the beautiful Emerald Isle is taking center stage in the world’s media. Yet, far from all the politics, Ireland is a country that thrives on its deep Catholic faith, which remains an integral part of its inhabitants’ lives.
The Irish have many ways of expressing their faith and love for God. And just like many other Catholic households around the world, Irish homes (and cars!) contain certain religious items that are given a prominent place.
Here are just a few items that often take pride of place in the homes of the faithful in Ireland:
A font of holy water is often placed inside of the front door so you can bless yourself as you come and go from the house. If the family has made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, there may also be a bottle of holy water in the shape of the Virgin Mary.
A statue of Mary
The Blessed Virgin has a prominent place in the homes of the Irish faithful. They may have statues both in the house and on the car dashboard.
In a lively household where the generations meet up, there are always rosary beads to be found. They’re generally placed up high so little ones don’t break them!
A big old leather-bound Catholic Bible
A Bible is handed down through the generations and records the family’s spiritual journey. The precious book holds the information of all the family births, baptisms, communions, confirmations, marriages and deaths, carefully entered into the back pages.
St. Brigid’s cross
Lots of families have St. Brigid’s cross hanging on the wall. The crosses used to be made on the feast of St. Brigid of Kildare, one of the patron saints of Ireland, to protect the home. It is believed that Brigid wove this cross out of rushes lying on the floor of a dying chieftain, and it caused him to convert.
Figurines of saints
You can often find an array of saintly figurines dotted around the house, brought by the grannies from both sides of the family.
The Sacred Heart
Many homes have a very large portrait of the Sacred Heart, which offers reassurance during the day but has been known to startle little ones getting up during the night because it’s so lifelike!
A Patrick or a Mary
In the past, every Catholic home with children would have had a Patrick or a Mary among the siblings. Nowadays, in smaller families, the popular names are still often used, even as middle names.
The good room
Traditionally the most important thing to have in an Irish home was “the good room” that no one could use because it was reserved for when the local priest came for tea. While not as many families have the luxury of such a spare room today, the best china is still kept for these sorts of visits.