There are some days when everyone is a member of a different ethnic group. Everyone is Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the beginning of an 1862 war between the Mexicans and the French, in Puebla, Mexico. It is not Mexican Independence Day, which is on Sept. 16.
On March 17, everyone is Irish, in honor of Saint Patrick. Bars are famous for serving green beer on that day and restaurants often offer up corned beef and cabbage. Everyone wears green on that day and risks a pinch if they don’t!
It’s kind of interesting that Saint Patrick is not actually Irish. He was born somewhere in the United Kingdom. Scholars are not sure exactly where—England, Scotland or Wales. They are not sure about the dates of his life, either, especially when he was born.
When Saint Patrick was 16 years old, he was kidnapped by a group of Irish raiders and was sold into slavery in Ireland. He was forced to work as a shepherd. He used his time wisely and experienced a spiritual conversion. His faith helped him through this very difficult period and he learned how to spend time in prayer and contemplation.
Saint Patrick was in Ireland for six years, before he made it back to England, by way of France. Above all else, he wanted to return to Ireland and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He interpreted a particular dream to mean he was called to become a missionary to Ireland which, at that time, was pagan. He was sent to carry out the mission. Through his faith in Jesus Christ and the help of local kings, he made many converts to the faith.
Due to Ireland’s pagan roots, Patrick taught strongly that widows should remain chaste and that young women consider consecrating their virginity to Christ. He ordained many priests and set up several dioceses. He held several local Church councils and founded a number of monasteries. He always preached of the need for greater holiness in the Lord. He suffered a great deal of opposition, both inside and outside Ireland.
Even though he had been consecrated a bishop in Ireland, he was not a learned man. He was not a man of study, but a man of action. He was strong in his faith and rock solid in his missionary vocation. Rather than teach the truth of the Most Holy Trinity from scholarly books and lectures, he used the three-leafed shamrock (three separate leaves, but one stem; three separate Persons, one God).
One of the most famous legends surrounding Saint Patrick is the driving out the snakes of Ireland into the sea. Ireland is one of the world’s places that does not have snakes. There are no native species of snakes in Iceland, Greenland, Hawaii, New Zealand, parts of Canada, northern Russia, Antarctica and Ireland. Saint Patrick drove out the pagans from Ireland, but, it seems, there were no snakes to be removed.
So, on this coming Friday, be sure to wear green—and get ready to pinch those who don’t!