Every year on March 17 the world suddenly becomes – you’re right – Irish! The feast of Saint Patrick, the Parton Saint of Ireland, crosses all religious, ethnic and even age groups to join people together in celebration. In a real sense this is the fulfillment of Jesus’ wish, “Father, may they all be one…” How did this all begin, you ask? Let’s see.
Perhaps the most striking fact is that Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish or named Patrick! Maewyn Succat was born in the late 4th century in Roman Britain and apparently had as much problem pronouncing his first name as we do so he changed it to Patricius. He was kidnapped at 16 and taken to Ireland. He soon grew to love the native people and after his escape, he returned to Ireland to bring the Christian faith. By the time of his death on March 17, 461, love for St. Patrick had spread throughout the Emerald Isle.
This same love for Saint Patrick was brought to the United States by the many Irish immigrants who sought refuge in the “land of freedom” after the Great Potato Famine of 1845. In a relatively short time, the cities of Boston, New York, and Chicago were holding Saint Patrick Day parades and all were “wearing the green” (although blue was the color traditionally associated with Saint Patrick). Soon, what started as a celebration of Catholicism in Ireland transformed into a celebration of all things Irish. Is this simply another excuse for a party or something deeper?
I believe the welcoming nature of the Irish people is a direct result of their Christian faith. Saint Patrick’s Day provides people with an opportunity to put aside prejudices, differences, and biases to gather as one people and simply celebrate what’s right. The innate principles that guide every human person are able to be honored and expressed in a celebration of true brotherhood in Christ. Yes, Father, may we all be one!