Faith Time: St. Patrick’s Day

Mobile, AL (WKRG)

Sister Margaret Harte with St. Patrick’s School in Robertsdale joins us to talk about St. Patrick’s Day.  Here’s a rough idea of the questions we asked and her responses:

  • What is St. Patrick’s Day?
    • It is a day Irish people and those with Irish ancestry celebrate the feast of St. Patrick. The celebrations are both spiritual and secular.
  • How is it important in the Catholic Church?
    • Patrick was a missionary who lived between 375-462 AD. As a 16-year-old youth, he was captured by pirates off the coast of England and sold as a slave to a farmer in Ireland. He was deeply spiritual and prayed, in his own words, “more than a hundred times a day and night.” He escaped and fled back to England. He studied in France, was ordained a priest. In his dreams, he often heard the children of Ireland call “come back to us holy youth and walk among us”. Patrick and a group of monks landed in Ireland, met lots of opposition from the pagan druids, but finally, succeeded in spreading the gospel among the Irish people. During his captivity, Patrick had learned to speak the Irish language and was familiar with the spirituality of the pagan druids. That spirituality was in tune with many aspects of Christianity. So, explaining the mystery of the Trinity, using the shamrock, was acceptable to the people.
  • How is it observed in the church?
    • In the Catholic Church in Ireland, it is a holy day. Mass is celebrated. Other Christian churches have services.
  • How is the day observed in a secular sense?
    • The custom of having a St. Patrick Day parade began in Boston in the 1800’s. Now in Ireland, there are parades in towns and villages. Local athletic groups, bands, and community groups march. Children wear badges – a green ribbon with an imprint of a harp or shamrock. In the past, people would wear a sprig of shamrock. I’m not sure if they still do that.
    • In Dublin, many American school bands and cheerleaders parade. In Ireland, we do not dye the rivers or beers! You do see people wearing leprechaun costumes and green wigs. Eating corned beef and cabbage is an American tradition. People do eat it, throughout the year.
  • What was St. Patrick’s real life significance?
    • Patrick brought the message of Christ to the Irish people. In the years following St. Patrick, many monasteries, and centers of learning were established. Beautiful manuscripts of the gospels were written and preserved. Irish missionaries went abroad to other continents and spread Christianity.
  • What is St. Patrick the patron Saint of?
    • He is the patron saint of Ireland, its people, and their faith.
  • What is the best way to commemorate this day?
    • Ideally, it would be good to reflect on the meaning of being a follower of Jesus in today’s world. Maybe, attend Mass or a church service. Then, have a lot of fun with family and friends by attending a parade, enjoying a meal.
  • Why is St. Patrick’s Day so closely tied to Irish traditions?
    • Patrick had a close affinity to the Irish people, the land, and especially to Irish children. Their call in his dream “Come back, O holy youth and walk among us” was the reason he came to Ireland to spread the Gospel.

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