Make St. Patrick’s Day More Saintly this Year

For those of us who eschew the infamous Irish drinking culture, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations might be a wee bit boring. One could be content to celebrate soberly and simply, by noshing on fatty boiled beef and over-cooked cabbage per the pseudo- New England Irish tradition, or one could take the unusual step of making St. Patrick’s Day saintly.

A saintly St. Patrick’s Day celebration should start with St. Patrick.

Patrick was born in 385 in Scotland. As a boy of fourteen, he was captured during a pagan raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. He went to Britain, and was reunited with his family.

Then he had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come back, and walk among us once more." He began his studies for the priesthood.

Eventually, the church ordained Patrick a bishop and sent him to take the Gospel to Ireland. Patrick preached throughout Ireland, converting thousands. He and his disciples began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity upon hearing Patrick.

He preached and for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.

One of St. Patrick’s preaching tools was the shamrock, which he used to explain the Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The shamrock’s green color inspired the Irish tradition of "the wearing of the green." Presently, St. Patrick’s Day is a week-long festival throughout Ireland, culminating with bibulous feasts on St Patrick’s Day.

The custom of imbibing alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day comes from an old Irish legend. As the story goes, St. Patrick was served a measure of whiskey that was considerably less than full. St. Patrick took this as an opportunity to teach a lesson of generosity to the innkeeper. He told the innkeeper that in his cellar resided a demon who fed on the dishonesty of the innkeeper.

In order to banish the demon the man must change his ways. When St. Patrick returned to the inn some time later, he found the owner generously filling the patrons’ glasses to overflowing. He returned to the cellar with the innkeeper and found the demon starving from the landlord’s generosity, and promptly banished the demon, proclaiming thereafter that everyone should have a drop of the "hard stuff" on his feast day. This ritual is known as Patrick’s Pot. The practice is to "drown the shamrock" because it is customary to float a leaf of the plant in the whiskey before downing the shot.

Another St. Patrick’s tale was formed from the absence of snakes in Ireland. Legend has it that they had all been banished by St. Patrick when he chased them into the sea, after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill. However, scientists have since surmised that no snakes survived the last Ice Age in Ireland. This fact has been largely ignored by those who prefer the legend.

The character of St. Patrick has been contested throughout the centuries, with rumors of his improprieties with female consorts and leanings towards riches and finery at the forefront. However, his compassion for the poor and the confined has never been questioned.

Accordingly, a way to make St. Patrick’s Day saintly would be to donate to the Alameda Food Bank, Alameda Meals on Wheels or Alameda Friendly Visitors; groups that feed the poor and impaired and provide company for those confined to their homes. Such a donation would honor St. Patrick, and would make you feel truly saintly.

Green tea’s enough for me at satsfats510@mailstation.com