I’m guessing that St. Patrick is not exactly happy with the celebration of his day.
First, he’s not Irish but British. Second, he never drove snakes of of Ireland. And third, although he’s not technically a Roman Catholic saint,* he would be rolling his eyes at the unsaintly behavior of his partiers. For example, on the classic sit-com How I Met Your Mother, Barry Stinson urges his friends, “Come on! Let’s drink green beer. Let’s do green Jello shots. Where is your Saint Patrick’s Day spirit?”
The spirit of Patrick is quite different! He writes, “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner. I most certainly believe that it is the gift of God that I am what I am. He is the fount of holiness.”
Not exactly what comes to mind when we think of St. Patrick’s Day.
According to his autobiography, Confessio, he was kidnapped at age 16 by Irish pirates and served as a slave for six years caring for livestock. During this time, he writes that his Christian faith grew much deeper. He escaped and returned to Britain where he studied for the ministry. In the fifth century, he traveled back to Ireland to share the gospel with the people who practiced a form of Celtic polytheism. Patrick writes, “Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God.”
And, as far as banishing snakes from Ireland, all evidence indicates that post-glacial Ireland never, ever had the reptiles. Snakes were likely a metaphor for the druids, who Patrick is said to have driven out of Ireland when he established Christianity there.
So, rather than the celebration at your local Irish pub, the Catholic Church set apart March 17
for “solemnity and a holy day of obligation” in remembrance of Mr. Patrick.
So, here’s to celebrating the real Patrick on his special day!
* Patrick was never formally canonized, having lived before the current laws of the Catholic Church in these saintly matters. Nevertheless, he is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
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