Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Feast: March 17
The only awareness I had of Saint Patrick was celebrating St. Patrick's Day. I'm not Irish and had no particular devotion to him. Even St. Patrick's Day was just another day in the calendar when Irish trinkets, corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread and Irish coffee, pretty much make up the celebration. My community was founded by an Irish-Scottish Sister and as a consequence we have a lot of St. Patrick tradition in our community. I learned how to make a really exceptional (and well-kept secret) soda bread taught to me by Sister Peter Thomas (God rest her soul), (she called it "Scottish tea-bread"). So I was heavy on the externals but not much on the substance of St. Patrick. This all changed when God ordained that I be sent to Ireland for a two year mission in our nursing home situated in Dublin. I then made a better acquaintance with Patrick.
The Sisters didn't really celebrate St. Patrick's Day with trinkets and parties. In fact, the only celebration I saw was in Tipperary on TV, with the parade and party. The Sisters had real shamrocks pinned on our habits on Patrick's day. There was no corned beef and cabbage either.
In Ireland, I read and learned about St. Patrick. He was different from what I experienced of him in the States. He had a depth and palpable presence one can feel when one reads about him. Maybe it's the being in the land where he walked and lived and died. He became a real person to me. In reading his Confessions, the virtue which struck me the most about Patrick was his humility, his great humility. It was just something that jumped out of the pages of his life. His words were powerful and spoke of a deep sense of gratitude, which translates in his keen sense of natural beauty and power. I never would have believed that after leaving Ireland, I would be eager to find a statue of him I can place in my room! I finally found one! The Sisters were kidding me and said that one day I will return to Ireland. And like St. Patrick, I would hear the "voice of the Irish" begging me to "come back, come back!" At that time, no dream was to keep me away from the U.S since I've been away so long and missed home. But my time there was precious and memorable.
St. Patrick, like all the Saints, transcends culture, place and time. His "Confessions" is a wonderful book I would recommend anytime.