Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Apostle of Ireland

Like many American holidays, St. Patrick's Day is extraordinarily yet unrecognizably Catholic.

It's not easy to tease out fact from legend from a widely venerated figure as this fifth-century saint. But how many people drinking green beer today know anything about him?

Patrick was kidnapped at age 16, taken to Ireland, and sold into slavery. There he learned the language and culture, and also experienced a deeper conversion in the Faith. He escaped and returned to his native Britain, where he was consecrated as bishop. Then the pope sent him to the land of his captivity to preach the Gospel. Within 30 years, Patrick had converted pagan Ireland to Christ.

Some of my most favorite words of prayer come from St. Patrick's Breastplate, the prayer attributed to the good saint:
Christ be with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ within me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ on my right
Christ on my left
Christ where I lie
Christ where I sit
Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me
It is a great testament to not only the Faith but also the Irish spirit that now, after generations of bigotry toward the Irish, Americans look to being Irish as something to be celebrated, all in the name of St. Patrick. This is quintessentially Irish--misery turning to joy--which is the heart of Catholicism.

Now, I am at least one-quarter Irish (which may be much more than most on St. Paddy's Day). Grandma Anderson was full-blooded; Mom is at least half, and who knows what's mixed in on the Naser side. But I must admit that I hadn't really appreciated this great heritage--both physical and spiritual--until Grandma Anderson's death last year.

So I'm getting excited for next year's trip to Ireland in celebration of Mom and Dad's thirtieth anniversary.

St. Patrick, pray for us.