Archive for March 16th, 2006

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 16, 2006

[Note: I wrote this a couple of years ago, but I thought I’d share it today in honor of tomorrow’s holiday.]

“We also know that only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” — Herodotus

I’m a lover, not a fighter, so the only enduring image of St. Patrick’s Day in my memory is the overwhelming fear of being pinched by the older, meaner guys in elementary school.

Oh, I’d be wearing green. You bet your sweet shamrocks I’d wear green, but in case you didn’t know, most bullies are color blind. Mostly just on March 17th.

So I don’t like St. Patrick’s Day. I can’t stand corned beef and cabbage (partially due to an ugly vomit story from my childhood). I don’t even like to smell beer, and green beer doesn’t sound like much of an improvement. I’ve never seen a leprechaun or believed in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, and the closest I’ve ever come to dancing an Irish jig was in Little League when I was playing right field and really needed to pee.

So I’m the Ebenezer Scrooge of St. Patrick’s Day. Bah humbug, I say! (My fear is that all my Irish friends will now gather around and pinch me.)

But the holiday’s namesake sounds like a pretty interesting guy.

Ironically, St. Patrick was British. When he was sixteen, Irish raiders captured him and took him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. At age 22, he escaped. According to his writings, he believed God spoke to him through a dream and told him to get out of Ireland. So he did. Patrick walked 200 miles to the Irish coast and escaped to his homeland.

Back in Britain, Patrick reported another revelation from God. He claimed that God spoke to him again, asking him to study and return to Ireland as a missionary. So he entered into a rigorous study program for fifteen years before heading back to the land of his captivity for the dual purpose of ministering to the few Irish Christians and hopefully converting many others.

So he did.

Legend has it that the shamrock became associated with Patrick because he used it to try to explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish – three separate entities, but still one. Patrick used the powerful Irish symbol of the sun, too, superimposed it on the cross, and created what became known as the Celtic cross.

After twenty years of preaching in Ireland, he died onMarch 17. And in effect, he changed the religious face of Ireland. At the time of his arrival, there was only a handful devoted to Christianity, with the overwhelming majority worshiping nature gods. Today, 93% of Ireland’s population is Catholic.

And kids are being terrorized in playgrounds across the ocean for not wearing green. And college kids are inebriated with green beer. And the river in Chicago is green.

Well, things don’t always turn out the way you’d like. But I’d offer the reminder that it is possible to change the world on a large scale. Sure, some changes may turn out just like you’d hoped while others might be insulting.

But it’s worth a shot I’d say. Who knows, maybe you’ll get your own color-coded holiday someday, too.