It’s a little past St. Patrick’s Day, but the observation of two Patricks in still timely, I think.green shamrock

(A tip of the emerald hat to Miss Eastman,  Miss Collins,  Miss Corrigan,  Miss Fitzpatrick,  Miss Skelly, Miss Beahan, and Miss Martin …the pretty, young, single, Irish Catholic teachers of my school days that I referred to a few days ago.   One Irish teacher per year!   thanks for your prayers.)

Whether we’re Irish or not,  it’s always fun being “Irish”  for this one day of the year.    As I traveled to class on Monday, March 17th,  I passed by more people wearing the Green than I’ve ever seen before!   Green hats and sparkly “bow ties” and socks and pants and jackets. . .all happy, all going somewhere.

green spartyTruth be told,   I was driving through our campus streets where the school colors are also green –  and we’ve just won the Big Ten basketball championship.    The students had plenty of reasons to celebrate!

I celebrated later in the day.  Watched a replay of a part of a parade.  Enjoyed the bright green of the Chicago Canal.   Even made some genuine Irish colcannon to accompany a bit of corned beef.

Most people I know did “something” in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

But the man.   It’s the man we celebrate.   Who on earth do we think this Patrick really was?   Something about Irish whiskey?    Something about Guinness?  If you’re really being historical,  something about snakes?   Lucky four-leaf clovers?   Three-leaf clovers?  Lucky Charms?

Build yourself an image of the Patrick of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

That’s one Patrick.

On Monday I decided to refresh my memory on the real Patrick,  born in England in about 373 A.D.    A Catholic.     Lucky thing for him too, because before age 20 years, he had been captured by Irish pirates, enslaved, escaped, and recaptured three times.

During one of these times of slavery he was sent out alone into the wilds to tend flocks for his owner, and it was there that his  Catholic faith sustained him, gave him fortitude, courage, hope, as he lived among pagans where human life was a cheap commodity,  good for material gain, good for sacrifice, good for killing.    Long nights alone under the stars, in constant prayer,  taught him wisdom and insights which would serve him the rest of his days.

Later,  with that wisdom and with maturity, he became a priest and spread the word of the Catholic faith to what is now France and western Germany and on into parts of Italy.    Made a bishop, he was sent to Ireland, just about where he had started from.

green ireland

But not with bad memories, nor fear, nor trepidation, but with eagerness to bring to his former captors the good news of the Triune God, our Savior, to whom he prayed day and night, reciting daily the 150 Psalms, and more: canticles, hymns, praises.    He slept on stone.  He stood in cold water while he prayed.   He mortified his body in every way, to train his soul to regard the things of heaven.

This man, this real Patrick, converted much of the Ireland and helped begin its centuries-long course of steady faith, itself sending out many missionaries around the world.    St. Patrick spoke and wrote with a kindness and gentleness he gained by denying kindness and gentleness for himself.  His was a disciplined,  focused,  and profitable life.

His writings are easily accessible on the Internet today.   They are full of wisdom and good sense.  They are full of testimony to the reality of God and of His love for us in this life.  And his writings are full of Christian admonition to prepare us to enter the next life, safely.

I can hold the two Patricks in my mind.   The one is fun, though inconsequential. The other, the original Patrick is real and much more worthy of the short time we have here on earth.    The day for his celebration falls within Lent;  I think that tells us something.


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