OK, so, don’t actually FORGET him. We should definitely remember him. He’s a great saint, did amazing work and had a crazy life (if you don’t know anything about him, go here).
The point is I’m not going to talk about St. Patrick in this St. Patrick’s Day blog post (I don’t think this humble saint will mind; he is a saint after all). In reality, the world as a whole doesn’t really celebrate the liturgical feast of St. Patrick on March 17 anymore (note: it IS still a Holy Day in Ireland). This day has become more of an excuse for us to drink, wear green and celebrate “Irish culture.”
While I’m all about drinking sensibly and dressing festively, I’m pretty sure our impression of Irish culture doesn’t really give Ireland much credit. There’s so much to celebrate, and if we are going to reclaim this day for the glory of God, we should focus on what God has done and the gift He has given us in the Emerald Isle.
“For where there are Irish there’s loving and fighting, and when we stop either, it’s Ireland no more.” – Rudyard Kipling
I visited Ireland for only a short time, but I think my experience there revealed much about the Irish identity. For many hours, most days, a routine gloom hung in the clouds, drizzling just enough to be annoying. The fog was thick, and the mornings were cold, even in the middle of summer.
But when the sun came out, it was as if there had never been any grey clouds. The sun reflected vibrant shades of green, red, yellow, and blue throughout the countryside. Moss-covered ruins and brightly painted houses were scattered throughout the rolling hills. And I’ve seen few things as beautiful as a sunset on a clear day on the coast of Western Ireland.
While most of the locals complained about the dreariness and unpredictability of the weather, I loved the stark contrast. I think it’s because it reminded me of the people I met – maybe a little gruff and gloomy at first, but then, all of a sudden full of life, charm, and wit (although, Irishmen seem to be full of wit, even when depressed).
The history of Ireland has been stricken with difficult times – war, famine, division, political and religious unrest. Even the Irish flag represents a desire for peace and unity between Catholics and Protestants. The Church of Ireland and her people have suffered greatly, and there are many wounds and obstacles to overcome still today.
Despite all of the hardship, the people of Ireland have always found a way to persist and persevere, to find joy in the midst of trials. To the Irish, there is no doubt there have been and always will be struggles, but they’ll never give up and won’t become sour.
Because of this resilience, they have given many gifts to the world – great saints, enduring literature, and artful music. Their hospitality is unmatched, and their food and drink are delicious. Many have moved to other countries like the U.S. and continue to enrich and enliven our culture. I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t proud to be Irish (even I boast my puny 1/16 Irish heritage). To be Irish is to love being Irish.
“Like St. Patrick, I, too, have heard ‘the voice of the Irish’ calling to me, and so I have come to you…” – St. John Paul II
In 1979, a young Pope John Paul II became the first reigning pope to visit Ireland – that’s right, the first time the Pope had ever visited this super Catholic country. This was a very important visit.
He traveled throughout the country, blessing those who came to see him. He urged peace and reconciliation, emphasizing the Church’s commitment to Christian unity. He visited Our Lady of Knock, pleading for healing and counsel.
However, I think his words during a special Mass for the youth were the most compelling: “I believe in youth with all my heart and all the strength of my conviction. And today I say: I believe in the youth of Ireland. I believe in you who stand here before me, in every one of you. When I look at you, I see the Ireland of the future.”
These words were not just for the youth in Ireland in 1979. I believe they are for each one of us who can relate to woundedness, to division, to the loving and fighting that goes on in each of our hearts. JPII goes on to remind us:
“In the long run, love always brings victory, love is never defeated. And, I could add, the history of Ireland proves that.”
So when you raise a glass (or two) this St. Patrick’s day, raise it to a country that shows us a model of victory in the Christian life and to a people who choose love even when things are tough.
Here’s to you, my dear Irish friends: Be they kings, or poets, or famers, they’re a people of great worth, they keep company with angels, and bring a bit of heaven here to earth.
A bit o’ Irish craic (fun) for you, loves:
THIS trailer for a documentary called, ”The Irish Pub.”
Did you know that Our Lady appeared in Knock, County Mayo in 1879?
Watch this for even more reasons to love Ireland.
There was a Mass rock near Glenstal Abbey, where I stayed in Ireland. Such cool history!
Do you wear a claddagh ring? I lost the one I brought back from Ireland, but maybe I’ll get this one from a dedicated reader.
Check out this page of all the Irish saints! If you’re looking for baby names, look no further than this list (i.e. St. Ursmar and St. Gobnata).
And finally, an Irish blessing: May your joys be deep as the oceans, your troubles be light as its foam, and may you find sweet peace of mind, wherever you may roam.