Chancing an Arm

You never know when and where an inspiring story of wisdom, peace-making, and courage might find you…

Such happened to me during a visit to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin… where I was privileged to discover a five-centuries-old assemblage of wood and nails known as the “Door of Reconciliation” that immortalizes such a story.

“Chancing an arm” through the Door of Reconciliation.

It all happened in 1492, the climax of a bitter feud between two politically ambitious families: the Butlers of Ormonde and Fitzgeralds of Kildare.

During one of their many skirmishes, the Butlers, fearing for their lives, took refuge in the Chapter House of the Cathedral. The Fitzgeralds, having had enough of the violence, followed and implored the Butlers to come out and make peace. The Butlers, understandably afraid of being slaughtered, declined.

As a gesture of good faith, Gerald Fitzgerald ordered a hole be cut in the door, through which he thrust his utterly defenseless arm, extending his hand in peace to the Butlers within. Moved by the risk that Fitzgerald was willing to take, the Butlers reasoned that his intentions must be sincere. The parties shook hands, the Butlers emerged, and peace was made, giving birth to “chancing your arm”–a beloved Irish phrase to this day–and a lesson for us all.

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