"Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in
Roman Britain about AD 385. At the age of 16, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his village. He embraced Christianity during his captivity. He escaped from slavery
after six years and went to Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years. During his training he became aware that his calling was to
convert the pagans to Christianity.
He returned to Ireland to convert the native pagans to Christianity and Patrick, having adopted that Christian name earlier, was then appointed as second bishop to Ireland.
He was quite successful at winning converts which upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity.
His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time, Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since."
Here in Vero Beach, our parish had a St. Patrick's Day Dinner & Show, on March 12th (some years ago), and many parishes sponsor similar Dinners. The Knights of Columbus often have/sponsor St. Patrick Dinners, too. Let's face it, St. Patrick's Day is a universal celebration and it doesn't matter much if you're Irish or not! And this town even has a parade, today, on a road adjacent to our beach front. It is colorful and great for adults and kids alike.
When I was younger, my parents and I, when we still lived in New York, used to go to Fifth Avenue, in NYC, to watch various parades. I recall the Easter Parade, but I don't believe I've ever gone to see the St. Patrick's Day Parade, except on television. In those days, the St. Patrick's Day parade in NYC was colorful and it was a celebration. Nowadays, I'm not so sure. The Parade seems to be used to popularize various social issues, particularly as it passes St. Patrick's Cathedral. Nevertheless, the first St Patrick's Day parade was held in 1766 organized by Irish soldiers serving in His Majesty's service. Many marched for any and all reasons back then, usually organized along fraternal, trade or military organizational lines.
St. Patrick's Cathedral - a beautiful gothic Church, as it was depicted on an old postcard image, is a restful haven of peace in the middle of a bustling city. Since I used to work for two years about three blocks south of the Cathedral, I went there many times during my lunch hour to rest and pray.
Franciscans also celebrate St. Patrick's Day. As you know, many Franciscans in our large family are involved in hosting soup kitchens, and in that way, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated with the poor and homeless.
The Capuchin friars have an extensive ministry for the poor, including a soup kitchen in Detroit which was begun 75+ years ago.
The Marquard Center in Chicago is another large outreach ministry established by Franciscan friars.
In New York City, the Capuchins run Food Pantries out of St. John's Church on 31st Street. They have eight other locations in Harlem, Bronx, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island. These pantries feed over 2,000 poor families in New York. The pantries also distribute free clothing, diapers and toiletries. These ministries, in most cases are the difference between having enough to eat, or going to bed hungry.
Of course soup kitchens are hosted by many different organizations. I pray that every poor or homeless person can enjoy a nice St. Patrick's Day dinner somewhere!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
May God bless you, and keep you well!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
2007 rev. 2012