Valerie and I were discussing a note I received from my Uncle Jack, telling me he was enjoying the blog and liking my recent designs.
First, let me clarify that Uncle Jack is different from Uncle Jackie. See? Very different. One is a forester, one a retired teacher. One is an O’ This, and the other is a Mc That. Uncle Jack is my mother’s brother, and Uncle Jackie is my grandmother’s brother. This is confusing, I know, but Irish Catholics are legally required to name everyone with a y-chromosome John. If we don’t, then someone will go to Hell. But we don’t call them John, because if we did then we’d be Protestants and British and maybe still go to Hell. We call them Jack or Jackie. My grandfather was Paul John, and I guess they called him Paul because someone liked to live dangerously. But Paul is an apostle’s name and he had the John tucked in there, too, so he was safe.
And the women of the O’ This and Mc That clan? They will see your John and raise you one Mary. The women in my family need to have Mary stuck into their names somewhere. My grandmother is Maryclaire, my mother is Mary Mildred (Molly), and my sister is Mary. I didn’t get a Mary because….well, I guess my parents just didn’t love me as much. Unlike my grandfather with his John tucked into his name, I have no Mary at all, and this is why I am not a virgin and my son is a Buddhist.
When Valerie lectures me, though, she always calls me Mary Katherine because, being Italian Catholic, she knows this is how one needs to begin when reprimanding another Catholic. “Mary Katherine, you need to blah, blah,” she says, and I know that whatever she is about to say, she is right. Because she started with Mary, and that’s serious even if my Catholicism is only genetic and not spiritual.
I’ve always understood the Mary, but why the John? Mary, as the mother of Jesus, is the female bigwig in the Catholic Church. The Grande Dame. Many people in the South misunderstand the Catholic Church’s focus on Mary, and it can best be explained like this: not revering Mary is like telling “Your Mama” jokes to Jesus, and that wouldn’t be nice, now would it? So I understand sticking Mary in front of every little Irish Catholic girl’s name, but John? I’ve never understood why it was a standout.
Now that we’ve clarified, Uncle Jack sent an email, which Valerie and I were discussing. And I think that discussion might need to be a whole separate post.