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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : How to Honor St. Patrick Without Getting Smashed » How to Honor St. Patrick Without Getting Smashed

How to Honor St. Patrick Without Getting Smashed

Christian J - March 16, 2009

We walked past a few packed pubs this past Sunday – at 2pm. Around here, the party gets started early. How on earth did the feast day of the Patron Saint of Ireland turn into another excuse to sip the happy sauce?

It may be that this is very close to how the Irish observed it from the beginning – eating, drinking and celebrating. There’s no doubt that this is how they do it today. But before you accuse me of being a teetotaling, party pooping, stiff, you should understand a few things.

My disgust for Paddy’s Day drunkenness does not come from a desire to return to the roots of a Catholic holiday or even to spare the Irish the indignity of the alcoholic label (I don’t think they mind). Instead, my motives come from an understanding of the man himself – his life, mission and legend.

Born in Briton as a citizen of the Roman Empire, he was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish raiders at the age of 16. For the next six years he became acquainted with hard labor and solitude as a sheepherder. But in his loneliness he declared:

But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.1

This closeness with the Spirit helped aid him in escaping bondage – even winning a few converts on his journey home. But home would only be a rest stop. Soon after joining the priesthood, he received a vision of a man he knew in Ireland. The man hands him a letter entitled, THE VOICE OF THE IRISH. He then hears a multitude saying, “We beg you to walk among us once more”. “Stabbed in the heart”, he reluctantly returns to serve and wear out his life once again, but this time with the commission of the Almighty.

Because of the mingling of fact and legend, the rest of his life becomes a bit cloudy. We know of his admitted “lack of learning” and his apparent baptism of thousands. We know that he loved the Irish and counted himself among them. His experience as a slave made him an advocate for the weak and the lowly. When considering the pagan warriors that the Irish were, it seems that Patrick taught them in the only way they could be. They were astounded by the audacity of his faith – he came to them without sword or army but with the message of the God of Love.

As pagans they had a fearful reverence for the natural realm and an inclination for human sacrifice. Patrick built on this belief with a reminder that human sacrifices to the gods were no longer necessary – because of the One who was sacrificed for all.

Some have claimed that St. Patrick’s greatest legacy was the saving of civilization itself. The argument goes – Christianity in Ireland brought a monastic tradition which brought wide spread literacy, which brought an excitement for classical literature, book making and book preserving. This coincided with the fall of Rome by the illiterate barbarians to the east – with all of its horror (libraries being razed etc.). Thus, the humble Irish became the unsung heroes of the written word. (I tend to agree)

For me, its the way the Irish see Christ in the world around them that has had the greatest effect. No doubt their Patron Saint had a hand in this. We can see it manifest in their poems, music and literature.

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

-Joseph Mary Plunkett

So, how will I be honoring the legend of St. Patrick? I think I’ll find a tree and read a good book.

1. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/patrick/confession.toc.html


  1. Beautiful, CJ. Just what I needed right now. As a person of Irish descent, I thank you and my ancestors thank you. Erin Go Bragh.

    Comment by MCQ — March 16, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  2. Now I wish I was Irish (and not just Scottish and English)!
    I knew very little about St. Patrick, so thank you.

    Comment by cheryl — March 17, 2009 @ 7:01 am

  3. CJ – Nice job. As a decendent of neighboring Wales (although a Welsh friend says I look Scottish) I feel the same sense of advocacy “for the weak and lowly” and sometimes like to count myself among them. But then I realize how blessed my life is and although my spirit is sometimes weak I know my existance is anything but that, compared to so many. Thanks for sharing this positive essay on a hero of the common man. If I were a drinking man I too would raise a pint in toasting his life.

    Comment by lamonte — March 17, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  4. Don’t worry Cheryl, St. Patrick was Romano-British, not Irish:) Also, the Scotti were originally from Ireland (hence the shared Celtic/Gaelic culture and language) and settled on the west coast of Scotland in the 7th and 8th centuries where they established the Kingdom of Dal Riata before it absolved into the Kingdom of Alba and the modern Kingdom of Scotland prior to the Wars of Scottish Independence of Braveheart fame:)

    Thank you CJ. It is unfortunate whenever drugs get involved in cultural celebrations. Looking through the spiritual is probably the way St. Patrick would’ve wanted us to celebrate his feast day, I’m sure. I’d only raise a parting glass to him before the day ended.

    Comment by Bret — March 17, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

  5. “…raise a parting glass…” Nice, Bret. Love those Irish singers.

    Comment by lamonte — March 17, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  6. But just like during the Holidays, the WofW doesn’t apply on St. Paddy’s Day. Now all you Mormon boys and girls, have a green Guinness on me.

    Comment by Steve EM — March 17, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

  7. Steven EM,

    I actually love the image of 8th century Irish raising a glass at a feast of celebration. Even today, I don’t look at non-LDS celebrations (with booze) with the evil eye.

    Its just that so many today have NO idea why we even celebrate the man and his warrior children. The drunk college kids on the train home today were all I could take.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — March 17, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

  8. lamonte,

    That song will be sung at my funeral, with bagpipes and everything:)

    Comment by Bret — March 17, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

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