Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saint Patrick's Day

Dear friends in Christ,

One of the most popular days of celebration is Saint Patrick's Day. It is a day where people where green; it is the day where everybody is Irish, even if you aren't; it is the day where people celebrate Irish Heritage. But when celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, are we celebrating Saint Patrick, or are we using the day as an excuse for excessing partying?

Saint Patrick was an evagelist. He was born in England, and when he was 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken back to Ireland. After several years he escaped and returned to England. After becoming Christian he returned to Ireland as a missionary. He used the three leaf clover to explain the mystery of the Trinity to the Irish: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But little is known about the life of Saint Patrick. If he followed the example of other contemporary saints, we can assume that he practiced a life of penance and sacrifice. By the time Patrick was around, it was after the Edict of Milan in the early fourth century, which legalized the practice of Christianity in the Roman Empire. One couldn't be martyred as a way to show his or her devotion to their faith, so the practice of self denial and sacrifices developed as a way to become more Christ like. Most likely, Saint Patrick lived a life of great penances for the Irish people.

So how do we go from a man who lived a life of great penances to the modern ideal of celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, drinking excessively and partying? When I was in college, Saint Patrick's Day was a great excuse for indulgence for many people. Last night I walked by a local Irish tavern, and the parking lot was full. I can't judge those people, but I wonder how many drank excessive amounts. I also wonder what Saint Patrick thinks of what has happened to his feast day; instead of going to Mass to give thanks to the patron saint of Ireland, and the reason why Ireland and the Irish have been traditionally Catholic, people would rather give thanks at the bar. People's priorities are backward; instead of giving thanks for the life of Saint Patrick, they use the day as an excuse to indulge in activities that can be contrary to what Saint Patrick stood for.

And I am talking about indulgence; there is nothing wrong with celebrating the life of Saint Patrick with a Guiness, but multiple Guinesses? And drinking into the early morning? Is this what St. Patrick would like to see? Probably not. I had a beer last night, and I don't always have a beer, but to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I had one. I didn't drink into the early morning, nor did I get beligerently drunk. And despite that, I still had a very nice Saint Patrick's day.
Let us try to remember the real life of Saint Patrick, and let's try to celebrate the day with reverence towards Saint Patrick. And instead of worshipping the tavern ale, let's try to worship Christ, since this is the greatest tribute to Saint Patrick.
St. Patrick, ora pro nobis.