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Happy St. Paddy’s Day

St. Patrick Stained Glass Window

Image from St. Patrick Catholic Church, Junction City, Ohio. Photo by Nheyob, Creative Commons license.

We Americans have a tradition of turning minor ethnic holidays into major excuses to party. St. Patrick’s was just another Catholic feast day to commemorate the man who, according to tradition, brought Christianity to Ireland. Now it’s become a festival of drink and debauchery – not that I object to that sort of thing, within reason. Thankfully, political correctness has not yet spoiled it, since the Irish are white Europeans.

But back to St. Patrick. His festival is held on March 17th, the supposed date of his death. He was born in Britain the 400’s and captured by Irish pirates. After six years as a slave, he escaped, became a cleric, and returned to Ireland to preach through to the natives.

As with many saints, Patrick’s accomplishments have given rise to many legends. The shamrock, as most Catholics know, was a metaphor he used to explain the Holy Trinity. At one point, he stuck his walking stick in the ground, which became a living ash tree – certainly an allegory of planting the faith. Since Ireland has no native species of snakes, people credit him with driving them out. As a fan of snakes, it seems to me unwise things to do. Maybe the ancient Irish were fond of rodents.

There are monuments to St. Patrick around the world, but among the most interesting are in Mexico in memory of St. Patrick’s Battalion. During the US-Mexican war in the 1840’s many Irish immigrants refused to fight their Catholic brethren in Mexico and decided to switch sides. These men fought valiantly against the American invasion. Fifty were captured by the US Army and hanged as traitors. Others made their lives in Mexico where they were revered as heroes.

I doubt that many Americans know much history related to St. Patrick, though a few may mention the snakes. In any case, to all tonight’s Irish and fake Irish, party on but be careful out there.

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