Today is the Feast of St. Patrick. For many Americans, especially college students, this is an excuse to drink green beer and wear green clothes. It’s not an excuse to think about the man who evangelized an entire nation.
Twelve years of Catholic education have made me feel somewhat of a moral
need obligation to wear green on the 17th of March every year. So today, I put on my green sweater that I made a few months ago and went off to class. Hey, any excuse to wear a lovely handknit…
I was sitting in my first class of the day wearing my sweater and knitting a green sock when my professor mentioned that I had reminded her that today was St. Patrick’s Day because a) I was wearing green and b) I was knitting something green. She commented that I don’t usually knit green things but today I was. (Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of knitting in muted colors. It’s rather unfortunate.)
I smiled. I wasn’t about to tell her that the reason that I was knitting something green was that I needed a springy project in my life. Plus, I started that sock on New Year’s Day (full of bright ambitions to make a pair of socks every two months) and I still haven’t finished the first sock. Epic. Fail.
But I didn’t tell her this. I also didn’t tell her that I think that getting all excited about St. Patrick and being Irish every March 17 is a little silly. We don’t get all excited about being Italian or Polish every March 19 for the Feast of St. Joseph the Foster Father of Christ. And St. Joseph is a way bigger deal that St. Patrick. Don’t get me wrong; Ireland and St. Patrick are great. But St. Joseph is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest people ever born. He is one of the greatest examples of paternal and spousal love and devotion. No, he is the greatest.
But we don’t celebrate him outside of the Catholic Church. You won’t see people putting on red shirts and going to bars on Saturday proudly proclaiming “Kiss me! I’m Polish/Italian!” for the feast of St. Joseph. Starbucks won’t make “We hope you’re wearing RED today! It’s our favorite color” their Facebook status.
But really, that’s okay. Because just because you wear green or go to the bar and drink green beer, that doesn’t mean that you understand the message of St. Patrick. That just means that you celebrate what you think that being Irish means. (And honestly, I really hope that being Irish means more than just getting drunk and wearing green. I really do.) That doesn’t mean that you really think much about the man who has so much to teach us about the Trinity. That was the heart of his message: Three Persons, One God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I didn’t say any of this to my professor. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think it. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t what I believe.
And so, I ask Saint Patrick, the first bishop of Ireland, to bless us in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.