Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Happy Day for St. Patrick

Ever since I moved East and have lived in cities with greater numbers of Irish Catholics than my native suburban southern California, I've been surprised to see fewer people wearing green in the Catholic churches or schools on St. Patrick's Day than I did at my mostly WASP-y elementary school. Naturally, we didn't know anything about the political history behind the color, or I doubt if my Protestant classmates would have been so eager to defend the "wearing of the green" by pinching those who didn't comply.
     Of course, I don't mean to imply that I don't see any green on St. Patrick's Day--it just tends to be concentrated mostly around Irish pubs.
     I wonder what Saint Patrick thinks about that. I seriously doubt that he's pleased that celebrating his life, which was dedicated to Christ and the Church, has become an excuse for day-long inebriation.
     Don't get me wrong: I'm proud of my own Irish ancestors, and our family celebrates our Irish heritage today. I'm wearing all green as I write this, the corned beef is in the slow cooker (along with 12 oz. of beer), and we're about to watch Darby O'Gill and the Little People. There's nothing wrong with celebrating Irish customs and patriotism today. After all, it is the patronal feast of the Irish.
     It's just that I think too much beer has made people so bleary they're missing the point. They've wandered too far from the man--the saint--whose life and sanctity this feast day is meant to recognize.
     There's a lot more to him than his shamrock. 
     His example, for instance, is well worth contemplating. 
     When he was kidnapped and carried off to another country as a slave, he didn't complain or feel sorry for himself. Nor did he rebel and question why God would allow such a thing. Instead, he repented of having been a lukewarm Christian and accepted his lot as what he justly deserved.
     Once he was free, he didn't lead an army to punish the wicked heathen who had enslaved him. Nor did he avoid them like the plague. Instead, he sought to help them. He was trained and ordained as a priest and requested to be sent back to Ireland as a missionary, at great personal risk. He spent the rest of his life, seeking to bring the saving love of Jesus to the people who had wronged him.
     What a fine model he is for us, who are so quick to complain, so liable to question God, so reluctant to repent,so loathe to forgive, and too embarrassed to evangelize!
     St. Patrick also provides a wonderful example of living out St. Paul's admonition to "Pray always." As a slave, Patrick's job was to watch the sheep. Instead of being bored or contemplating revenge or escape or other negative options, he used his time well. He spent his day praying.
     The best ways I can think of to honor Saint Patrick are to strive to imitate him and to pray and share the heart of his beautiful prayer:

Christ with me, 
Christ before me,
Christ behind me, 
Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, 
Christ above me,
Christ at my right, 
Christ at my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Saint Patrick, pray for us!