What this day is REALLY about…

Did your kids want to wear green this morning? Are you cooking corned beef and cabbage? Did you get some Guinness? Nothing wrong with any of those things.

Today is the feast day of one my most favorite-est saints. Saint Patrick. A Roman boy kidnapped and sold into slavery, he later became a priest and bishop and brought Christianity to Ireland and taught of the Threeness of Persons in One God through the shamrock. I’ve always felt a special connection to Saint Patrick despite not being Irish at all. As a child I thought, “what genius to use something familiar to the people to simply teach a very hard to understand truth!” As an adult I think, “what genius to use something familiar to the people to simply teach a very hard to understand truth!”

Over the years I’ve heard an argument, from fellow Catholics, sometimes faintly, sometimes more loud that goes like this, “I’m not Irish, so I don’t celebrate St Patrick’s Day.” I first heard it from a Russian Catholic woman living in the US. The reasons people say this are varied but generally boil down to one of two things: they have a strong ethnic or national identity to one land or place and so feel a special attachment to the patron of that land (this is especially true of European Catholics) or they associate St Patrick and all celebrations with the drunken bawdiness of what we call a celebration here in the US.

First of all, while St Patrick is the patron of Ireland and the Irish, I see no reason why he isn’t for all of Christianity. His missionary spirit and teachings benefit all of us equally. It just so happens he was among the first in Ireland. And secondly, you don’t have to wear green, put shamrocks in your hair, eat corned beef or get drunk to enjoy the day. Because did you know, shamrocks aren’t all that popular in Ireland, the tradition of corned beef was started by Irish immigrants in the US and the whole getting drunk thing is based on ugly stereotypes and xenophobia? So, what’s a person of non-Irish heritage who dislikes traditional secular American celebration to do?

Well, you can start by reading about St Patrick. If you have children, or are just interested yourself, there are a variety of resources available at a relatively new website called Saintnook. And they’ve got a whole list of them. You can also try to commit to memory or at least read St Patrick’s breastplate:

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Chist in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

My boys and I say this prayer daily and they have already memorized most of it. It is a beautiful reminder to see Christ in all and remember He is with us always and also of Trinity.

And you know what, if you like corned beef (guilty!) or a Guinness…that’s okay too. As long as we remember the reasons we are celebrating this day as Catholics, there is no reason not to enjoy a special meal or enjoy the beauty of shamrocks or (for those who are like me and are not) pretend we are Irish (okay, I consider myself IBM–Irish by Marriage). A blessed St Patrick’s Day to all!