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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I am neither Catholic nor Irish, so my family doesn't celebrate St. Paddy's very much.

In fact, the only memory I have of this holiday comes from some thirty years ago, when I bowled sixteen gutter-balls in a row. Sixteen! I wonder if that dismal performance is some kind of record. The spectators, so to speak, were guzzling green beer and cheering me on. My seventeenth turn yielded a strike! To this day, every time St. Patrick's Day rolls around, I get teased about that evening at the bowling alley.

Now, some facts about the actual St. Patrick:

From "The St. Patrick You Never Knew":
He didn't chase the snakes out of Ireland and he may never have plucked a shamrock to teach the mystery of the Trinity. Yet St. Patrick well deserves to be honored by the people of Ireland—and by downtrodden and excluded people everywhere.

Some 1,500 years ago a teenage boy from what is now Great Britain was kidnapped and enslaved by marauders from a neighboring country. Not since Paris absconded with Helen of Troy has a kidnapping so changed the course of history.

The invading marauders came from fifth-century Ireland. The teenager they captured eventually escaped, but returned voluntarily some years later. In the meantime, he had become convinced that he was handpicked by God to convert the entire country to Christianity....

Patrick is literally the only individual we know from fifth-century Ireland or England. Not only do no other written records from Britain or Ireland exist from that century, but there are simply no written records at all from Ireland prior to Patrick's....

...His own experience in captivity left Patrick with a virulent hatred of the institution of slavery, and he would later become the first human being in the history of the world to speak out unequivocally against it....

Women find a great advocate in Patrick. Unlike his contemporary, St. Augustine, to whom actual women seemed more like personifications of the temptations of the flesh than persons, Patrick's Confession speaks of women as individuals....

There is no question that Patrick taught us by his example that all life is, indeed, precious.
From "Placing St. Patrick in Context":
...The British Church of Patrick's time was also intimately connected with the Roman Empire. Missionaries from the continent followed the development of Roman towns, travelling over the system of good Roman roads. This was an urban Church with bishops establishing their centers in these Roman towns...."

As Ireland had not come under the Roman Empire, it was for the most part unnoticed and untended by the developing Church. There were some Irish Christians, mostly on the eastern and southeastern coast. Many of these were probably British slaves who had been taken into captivity by the Irish. There is a record of a Bishop Palladius being sent to Ireland before Patrick. But the mission of Patrick was unique. There had been, up to this time, no other organized or concerted missionary effort to convert any pagan peoples beyond the confines of the Roman Empire. Patrick's efforts to do this, in fact, were criticized as being a useless project.... The more we see Patrick in the setting of his time, the more we must admire his courage, vision and faith. But we also see that his path brought him pain and suffering. Acclaimed as a great hero in ensuing centuries, he himself felt nothing of the sort in his own time.

Patrick, then, is an intensely human person and not a plaster saint to admire from afar. He offers us a Christian vision of life honed out of his own experience and trials. He offers us a challenge to live our own Christian life today in changing and turbulent times. He comforts us when we are criticized and ridiculed. He gives to us the Celtic vision of the intimate presence of God in creation, in the Church, in people and in Scripture. He is a model for us, giving us an example to follow as we struggle to live authentically our own Christian lives in our own difficult times.
The above are essays of serious tone. But St. Patrick's Day is a time for great fun as well. Enjoy!


  1. I wore green today just so I would not get pinched. I saw lots of people with St. Patrick's Day t-shirts on while I was out and about.

    Back in the late 1970's and early 1980's I worked in the office with a women who would make it a point to wear bright orange, including a big orange floppy brim hat, at the office. I'm assuming she was anti-St. Paddy's day.

    Right Truth

  2. Debbie,
    I do enjoy St. Paddy's. Green in "my" color.

  3. I was raised in an Irish Catholic home and we NEVER celebrated St. Paddy's day. Our father always said it was a fake celebration for those who always wished they were Irish. On another note, we were NEVER allowed to wear orange either, for any reason.

  4. I was raised as an Irish catholic. My family was certain that my grandfather had come from Ireland.

    My mom was more than a little dismayed when I did the research and discovered our famliy has been in the US since 1775 and from England....

    Green is my favorite color does that qualify???


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