There are many famous myths about Saint Patrick. There are stories of him driving the snakes out of Ireland, of him getting rid of the last monsters, and of him proselytizing so long to one particularly stubborn group of Irish that his ash walking stick rooted itself and grew into a giant tree. While these stories are amusing, and may have fit with early are subsequent understandings of how stories should be told, they further distort the truth of the life and works of one of the patron saints of Ireland. Acutally, there are pretty popular theories that the patron saint as celebrated later was actually the combination of the lives and works of two individuals, niether of which was Irish. Go figure.
The questions that really come to mind to me today, on ‘his day’, really come from traditions and celebrations associated with him. Why the green? Just because of the shamrock and its three-in-one illustration of the Trinity? Why lepruchans and booze? Just cause it’s Ireland? There’s no heavily boozy celebrations worldwide for St. Brigid who, unlike Patrick, was actually canonized by the Pope.
Despite my questions on the randomness of the holiday and all the commercialism that has sprung up around it (when else am I going to wear shamrock sunglasses and a green feather boa?) , I still had a good time yesterday at the parade in South Boston. Besides, who wouldn’t applaud a man who gets kidnapped and is made a slave at the age of six and then doesn’t hold a grudge? I’m not sure I could go back to help people who took me from my family as a child, even if i did manage to escape on my own. That’s more the sort of heart I want to have – the kind that always helps people – no matter the possible political and religious implications of St. Patrick’s actions.