Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! (Lá Fhéile Pádraig)

March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick stained glass window from Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA. From Wikimedia Commons

Saint Patrick, one of the patron saints of Ireland (the others are Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille) was born in 387 A.D., and we are not sure when he died; dates are variously given as 440, 461, and 493 A.D. We do know with some certainty that he was born in England, and that he was captured at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland by Irish raiders. After 6 years of slavery, Patrick escaped and returned to his family, then entered the Church, where he was ordained.

In Patrick’s own words:

“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

He returned to the north and west of Ireland as a bishop, and even though it is difficult to separate legend from fact, we do know that Patrick spread the faith in Ireland, and that the work he began was instrumental in saving the literature of the Greeks and Romans, spreading literacy during the dark ages.

So, as Thomas Cahill suggests in yesterday’s Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, reading a book is a fitting way to honor Saint Patrick and the Irish today—and might be even more fun than wearing a silly hat while drinking green beer.

Here’s a link to a wonderful version of Londonderry Air (aka Oh, Danny Boy), sung by Denise Jordan Finley, and produced by Daniel Pagdon. Thanks for posting this, Daniel.