Today, many Alaskans are joining the 31 million Americans who claim some degree of Irish ancestry in celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, which remains one of the most popular holidays in America.
While this day is certainly known for its shamrocks, periodic pinching, frothy pints and frenzied fiddlers, we ought to also celebrate the remarkable man who stands behind the St. Paddy’s parties. He was no leprechaun.
March 17 is the historic anniversary of a colossal fifth-century saint’s death, and Saint Patrick’s Day has been observed by the Irish for more than 1,000 years.
Saint Patrick, the man, is credited with bringing the light of Christianity to the previously Druid-dominated Ireland. According to his autobiography he was kidnapped as a teenager and brought to Ireland from Britain as a slave. Undaunted by his former captivity, he later returned to the pagan island as emboldened missionary who successfully overcame the druid stronghold. He is also famous for using the three-leaf clover, or shamrock, to explain the Holy Trinity – that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
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On St. Patrick’s Day, which occurs during the Christian season of Lent, many Catholics attend Mass in the morning and later celebrate with drink, dance and feasts. Often, local bishops lift prohibitions against eating meat during Lent so parishioners can feast on the traditional dish of bacon or corn beef with cabbage. Anchorage-Juneau Archbishop Andrew Bellisario issued such a decree earlier this month.
While Christianity has, in more recent decades, begun to erode across Ireland, we do well to remember how God used a single man to awaken and revive an entire culture to spiritual truth.
Given the cultural and spiritual decay of our own age, let us raise a pint, thank God for brave men like Saint Patrick, and then pray for the fortitude to follow in his footsteps.
The views expressed here are those of the author.