St Patrick's Day affects the whole country. People who aren't Irish or Catholic don't care what it is or where it came from, they just know that it has something to do with Ireland and everyone knows that the Irish drink to excess, right? (Typical British propaganda. To quote my colleague, I spit on them!) So idiots go out and get drunk and wear green and carouse like there's no tomorrow. And nobody cares to know what it all means.
They don't realize that not too long ago it wasn't anyone who could wear green. They don't realize that being Irish has nothing to do with drinking distilled spirits and everything to do with defying injustice. I walked past some department stores a day or two ago and saw trendy distressed material t-shirts being sold displaying such edifying slogans as "Fight Me, I'm Irish" or "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" (for the ladies, of course) Horribly, these bear uncanny resemblance to Olver Cromwell's view of Ireland. To him, the Irish were backward, savage barbarians with loose tongues and looser women, good for a laugh and some sport, if you were lucky.
No one's going to market a t-shirt that says, "Respect Me, I'm Irish", and that's a pity. Ireland's story is one that supposedly appeals to America's love of the underdog that loves freedom. Even if that story ultimately ended in tragedy, there are people and places that should be known and talked of today that will never be celebrated. Oliver Plunkett, Joseph Marie Plunkett, Red Hugh O'Donnell, Hugh O'Neil, Eoghan Ruadh, and Robert Emmitt. Men who gave their lives for their country and their God because of the man whose day it is, St. Patrick. Today is the day we remember a country remained true the truth and faithful to the faith through hundreds of years of brutal repression and suffering. Today is the day we take out our penal rosaries and remember, when we look at the cross what it was to be Irish. To live and die for the One, True Faith and to live and die with a smile and a jest. We remember this today because of one man's perseverance in the face of an impossible task. Without St. Patrick, the Church would lack the incredible story that was Ireland for 1500 years. As the saying goes, when he came to Ireland there was a devil behind every blade of grass; but when he died, they had fled and angels had replaced them.
So when you wear green today, remember that it was a forbidden color because it was for St. Patrick. By all means, go to parties, celebrate with all your might, because we're Catholic, and that's what we do. But don't forget to pray for Ireland--in gratitude and joy for what she was, begging the strength for her to weather her current troubles, and in the hope that she may once more reach a pinnacle of holiness and become again the land of Saints and Scholars.
St. Patrick, pray for us.