Saturday of the third week of Lent
The readings for the day can be found here.
On St. Patrick’s Day it is easy to get caught up in the “Wearing of the Green.” Many assume that St. Patrick is no different than those “saints” like St. Christopher who are now considered somewhat dubious in origins. In fact, we actually have two documents written by the hand of Patrick that give us inclinations into his unique mind.
Patrick was captured as a slave in northern Britain by then-pagans in Ireland in the early fifth century. According to his Confessio, he did not follow the teachings of his father and family, who were Christians, but while living in slavery he had a vision of sorts that showed him the way out of bondage. The story would have been great at that point, but instead Patrick returned to the place of his bondage where he spread Christianity for the first time in Ireland.
But all was not “green and shamrocks.” He faced opposition from native pagan leaders, but also ridicule from his religious superiors, who considered his Latin rustic, his methods unorthodox, and his ability suspect. He defended himself in his writings, but at the end of the day, I am always struck by two central things about Patrick:
1. He returned to his place of bondage at the call of Christ. How many times do we want to simply escape those tough moments in life in favor of the easy path?
2. He kept working despite the disapproval of his Pharisaic leaders, who simply didn’t understand how difficult converting the Irish might be! Christ calls out the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, and, of course, as Catholics we believe in a living Gospel. Where are our Pharisees today?
Neither notions are easy to swallow. But when we wear our green on this pause in Lent, let us remember that Patrick was one of us, a pilgrim’s pilgrim and a man on a mission.
Dr. Thomas Finan is Assistant Professor of History and Director of the Center for International Studies at SLU. He generally doesn’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.