St. Patrick | A Reflection on Why We Should Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
We owe it to Patrick to say a word in his honor (in view of the commercial things people have done to his feast day). It’s almost as big of a contradiction as the celebrations at Christmas time, when the true meaning is lost with commercialism and excess.
Patrick has become a national symbol; the man who, single-handed, converted the Irish has truly been buried beneath sixteen hundred years of pride. “It’s a great day for the Irish,” they sing on St. Patrick’s Day, a national holiday.
All over the world Irish ambassadors present Heads of State with sprigs of shamrock. Exiles paint the traffic lines on 5th Avenue green. Green beer flows and songs are sung. And on all this celebration the Saint is expected to “bestow a sweet smile.” It is the Irish who are being honored, not St. Patrick. Thats not a bad thing, but we shouldn’t forget why Patrick was so important.
Scholars argue incessantly over the Patrician question – where was he born?
Was it in the hills near Dumbarton, or the Severn near present day Bristol, or the most likely place the South of present day France? The real Patrician question is concerned with separating the man from the myth, the saint from the symbol. Whoever it was converted the Irish virtually single-handed, from the bottom rather than from the top, in the teeth of a highly-established Druidic religion, and all that without a single drop of martyr’s blood being shed. This action produced an extraordinary harvest of saintly monasticism and outstanding missionary activity that survived sixteen hundred years (centuries of violent and systematic persecution). Whoever it was must have been a man of outstanding human qualities and singular sanctity, a man worth remembering, a Saint worth honoring.
He must have undoubtedly been courageous and energetic too, a man of great faith and physical stamina. But in an age that prefers action to adoration and protest to prayer, it is worth remembering that Patrick was above all a man of prayer. That last great non-violent revolution in Ireland was the work of a man who wrote of himself: “The love of God and the fear of him increased more and more and my faith grew and my spirit was stirred up, so that in a single day I prayed as often as a hundred time and by night almost as frequently, even while I was in the woods or on the mountain.”
So, as you enjoy you annual pint(s) of Guinness, just remember what St. Patrick stood for.