Big Jim: An Irish priest's story

2014-03-11T00:00:00Z 2014-03-21T08:47:52Z Big Jim: An Irish priest's storyJim Griffith Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Sometimes jokes, like other stories, hide a deep truth behind their surface.

I heard this story from the late Father Maurice McCarthy, an Irish-born priest who served the local Yaqui community for years until his death. I use it to try to explain the importance in Mexican culture of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We’re close to St. Patrick’s Day, so it seems to be a good time to retell it.

An Irish priest was taking the Blessed Sacrament to a house-bound Mexican-American woman. As he left, he asked her if she wanted him to return with the Sacrament on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Father,” she said, “I’m not Irish, and St. Patrick wasn’t Mexican. But will you bring the Sacrament two days later for the día de San José?”

Father was a little miffed at this point, and replied “Juanita, St. Joseph wasn’t Mexican either.”

“Yes, of course, I know he wasn’t,” said Juanita, “But at least he had the good sense to marry one!”

There’s more truth in that story than one might find in a couple of dozen ponderous scholarly tomes. And as the late philosopher Otavio Paz once said, “The only two things Mexicans believe in are the National Lottery and the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

I won’t go into the importance of the Irish presence here in Tucson. After all, our town was founded by Hugo O’Connor, an officer in the Spanish Army. There have been Irish here at least since the Gadsden Purchase, and Irish Catholic clergy have had a long and continuing presence here, bringing their notable verbal skills and their stories to add to the flavor of our community.

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About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail

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