Patrick a saint for those who are not
One thing I've learned about St. Patrick's Day is, don't get too serious about it. We don't commemorate the day; we celebrate the day. Irishmen do a lot of eating, drinking, dancing, storytelling (some are even true) and reminiscing. The stories needn't be factual because facts often get in the way of a good story.
Getting facts about St. Patrick is more difficult than getting facts on a Louisiana politician. We know he wasn't born in Ireland, but in Wales. He died on March 17 in A.D. 461. We don't know where he's buried, but I have a good friend who insists he has a first-class relic (piece of bone) of St. Patrick. That's a good trick.
St. Patrick is reputed to have given a sermon that drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Of course, there is no record of any snakes being native to Ireland, so that feat becomes less spectacular as it's analyzed.
We do know that St. Patrick was quite a salesman for the church. God only knows how many times he kissed the Blarney Stone! At any rate, he was so good at converting pagans to Christianity that the local Celtic Druids, politicians and civic leaders did what they did best: arrest him. He did what any self-respecting Irishman would do: escape several times.
St. Patrick is the perfect saint for the Irish. Irish history is replete with hard times and English oppression, but they made their way through it and managed to smile and laugh all the while. G.K. Chesterton wrote of the Irish, "For the great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad, for all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad." The songs might be sad but the Irish people are not.
In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is the national holiday. Three times, I've marched down O'Connell Street in the parade. Nothing matches the Dublin celebration -- not New York, Chicago, Boston or any other city. Oh yes, another myth. The pubs are not closed in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. The churches and the pubs both do a mighty (favorite Irish adjective) business.
I've celebrated the day in Dublin, New York and Chicago. If any group knows how to throw a party, it's the Irish, and they blame everything on the Church and a wonderful saint.
And, in true Irish tradition, for my first miracle after this year's celebration, I'm going to give a sermon driving all the elephants out of Hawaii.
Brother Greg O'Donnell is president of Damien Memorial School.