From a Homily on the Saint Juliana Irish Mass
William Francis Meagher (pronounced "Mar") was born in Waterford, Ireland in the 1820s. Identified by the British as a threat early into his adulthood, he was arrested and exiled to the penal colony in Tasmania. Meagher would escape, sail to New York City, and rise through the political ranks, eventually ending his career as the governor of Montana. His political success was owed to his leadership of the Irish Brigade in the Civil War, of which Robert E. Lee said “I have never seen men so brave.” The unit of Irishman performed admirably in many battles–Bull Run, The Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville—so much so that President Lincoln elevated Meagher to Brigadier General. From this position of authority, Meagher had the War Department create green Irish flags with a harp symbol. The men carried this flag into battle, and in the event that the men were separated from the flag, or the flag was destroyed, the Irish soldiers could be identified by a green sprig in their cap, for which Meagher also gained permission. Two other allowances Meagher provided that endeared him to his men: the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and the presence of a Catholic priest for every regiment.
To be proudly Irish is to rejoice in the things of the earth: the color green, corned beef and cabbage, Guinness, the drone of bagpipes. Celebrating the goodness of our human nature is to celebrate God, for he redeemed all of humanity. Meagher picked up on this, and he utilized the goodness of creation to rally the Irish and further their cause in America. We celebrate and thank God for the Irish at Mass in an American church this evening. We owe a toast to William Meagher and many other Irish Americans for making that possible.