The other day, I heard a DJ on the radio jubilantly announce that St. Patrick’s Day is one of the best holidays of the year because, “You don’t need to buy gifts for anyone – you can just drink beer and party.” Later on that day, I saw a sign outside of a restaurant that read: “Knock knock. Who’s there? Irish. Irish who? Irish you… Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”
Stories like these demonstrate that the majority of American forget what St. Patrick’s Day is about or what they are celebrating. You may be surprised to discover that St. Patrick’s Day has nothing to do with:
- Drinking beer
- Going to parties
- Hijacking a religious day for nationalistic reasons.
What St. Patrick’s Day is Really About:
St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating the life of a Catholic Bishop, Patrick, who converted the pagan nation of Ireland to the Catholic faith. Ironically, Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland. It was there that he found God in a profound way that changed his life. Patrick escaped from Ireland and eventually became a priest and then a bishop.
After a dream, Patrick chose to travel back to Ireland to teach the Celtic pagans about the one true God. Patrick converted the nation of Ireland with great success. Over the next 100 years, a great number of Catholic priests and nuns would arise, along with a large number of monasteries, convents, and schools which would educate people from around Europe. The far reaching effects Patrick’s legacy had would soon to be discovered in the Roman Empire which was devastated and in ruins.
It had been decimated by Barbarians, Vikings, and other armies. In these dark times, when Catholicism in the Roman Empire had only a dim light that was flickering; it was then that missionaries from the newly converted Ireland were sent out in large numbers. These missionaries crashed down upon the Roman Empire like a powerful waterfall. They preached the Good news of Jesus Christ to everyone and converted Europe back to the Catholic faith in untold numbers including many barbarian tribes. In short, Patrick brought Ireland to the Catholic faith and helped to bring back the world from utter chaos. He spread Catholicism throughout the Roman Empire, the same Catholic faith that would invent hospitals, universities, and many other things. That is what St. Patrick’s Day is all about, and that is what we celebrate! It is a religious holiday we celebrate not a nationalistic one.
That’s why it’s so tragic that even some Catholics party and drink too much on this holiday causing Patrick to role over in his grave. Celebrating Irish nationalism and getting drunk just shows that many Catholics don’t understand what this holiday is about. If they really honored St. Patrick, the would act in a holy way that honors him, his messages, and God. Jesus calls us all to holiness not drunkenness. One is of heaven and the other of the world. Ironically, Ireland does not even celebrate this holiday except in a strictly religious sense.
While St. Patrick might be remembered for his three-leaf clover which he used to teach people about the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), he was a very holy man. The following is part of a prayer composed by St. Patrick, and you can pray it in honor of him.
“As I arise today, may the strength of God pilot me, the power of God uphold me, and the wisdom of God guide me. May the eye of God look upon me, the ear of God hear me, the word of God speak for me. May the hand of God protect me, the way of God lie before me, the shield of God defend me, the host of God save me. May Christ shield me today. Amen.”