Soon, March 17 will be upon us. That day, many will celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, or to be more specific, the optional memorial of Saint Patrick, Bishop and Confessor. Most people get this day wrong. They use it as an excuse to engage in less than virtuous behaviors while ignoring key facts about Saint Patrick and his life.
Here are some quick facts about Saint Patrick that get missed in the celebration of this day:
Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish
There is no specific consensus on where Patricius (the only name he uses for himself in his writings) was born. Some say he was born in Scotland, and others say Wales. They all agree, though, he was born in Roman Britain, not Ireland.
The official color of Ireland is blue
The green that inspires Irish celebrations comes from the Irish flag. The green represents Catholics. The orange represents the Protestants who settled in Northern Ireland and supported William of Orange. The white represents the peace between the two groups. However, the official state color of the Republic of Ireland is Patrick’s Blue. Not only are those who celebrate Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day using the wrong color for Ireland, but they are also ignoring a color named after the saint himself!
Saint Patrick’s Day always falls during Lent
The earliest day on which Easter can fall is March 22. The latest day on which Ash Wednesday can fall is March 10. There will never be a time when Saint Patrick’s Day won’t be during Lent. If you indulge in festivities, remember that you are doing so in a time of fasting and self-denial (unless his feast falls on a Sunday!).
Many abandon their work and ministry to go drink
The name of Saint Patrick is often used as an excuse to devote an entire day to drinking. And while there’s nothing wrong with a drink in healthy moderation, getting plastered for the sake of Patrick is not honoring his memory. We cannot abandon our duties and ministries for the pint on this day. I hear stories of priests in my diocese who take the entire day off from work to hit up one of the local Irish pubs. It is naive to think that it is only in my diocese that this occurs. What if a there is an emergency? You can’t have a sloshed priest heading out to anoint someone who is dying.
There aren’t many celebrations that actually honor Saint Patrick
No, your parish’s Irish pancake breakfast does not count. If there are Irish dancers, shamrocks, and a flock of people wearing green, they are celebrating Ireland, not a 5th Century Catholic Bishop who probably condemn the way his optional memorial is being celebrated. Getting hammered does nothing to honor Patrick.