The Merry Catholic
An event that always occurs in the middle of Lent is St. Patrick’s Day. This religious feast day celebrates the beloved patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick is remembered for converting many people in Ireland to Christianity, and for using the three-leaf shamrock as a teaching tool to help explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The one thing he probably did not do in Ireland was eat corned beef and cabbage and drink green beer. I doubt those items were readily available 16 centuries ago, even if there were Stop & Shop stores nearby.
On St. Patrick’s Day, it is said that everyone is Irish. Everyone that is, except Saint Patrick himself, who definitely was not Irish. (Oh Lord, please don’t let any of my relatives read this.)
There is much we don’t know about Saint Patrick, but we do know he was born in Briton, the son of Roman parents. His parents either were natives of Briton who had become citizens of the Roman Empire, or they were originally from Rome. Which means St. Patrick very well could’ve been Italian.
Now isn’t that a surprise?! Well, maybe not. The Irish-Italian combination has always been a good one. After all, many people of Italian descent marry people of Irish descent. A lot of lovely ladies with raven hair and olive skin are now known by names such as O’Rourke and McCarthy. (And there is one such lovely lady in my home who now goes by the name of Dunn.)
And there are quite a few fair maidens with wavy red hair and cute freckles who now have names such as Colucci and DelVecchio. As my kids prove, the Irish-Italian combination produces very attractive offspring.
Whatever his exact ancestry, Saint Patrick was a remarkable guy. While living in Briton, he was captured and taken to Ireland as a slave. Many years later he escaped and returned home, but then he had a vision. In the vision, he was told to return to Ireland as a Christian missionary. (I’m pretty sure the vision did not promise that if he obeyed, one day there would be parades in his honor in New York, Chicago, Hartford and New Haven.)
If Saint Patrick was indeed Italian, maybe he got the Irish peasants’ attention by performing amazing feats, such as standing out in the sun all afternoon without turning bright pink. I know every summer, I’m amazed when people perform this trick, as I watch from the safety of a shady tree with nine quarts of sunblock slathered all over me.
But there are some folks of Italian ancestry who ignore St. Patrick’s Day and instead wait two days for St. Joseph’s Day. March 19 marks the feast of St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the earthly stepfather of Jesus. This is a very big celebration day in both the Italian and Polish communities.
But wait a minute. St. Joseph was Jewish and he lived his whole life in Palestine. Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Irish folks celebrate a guy who was probably Italian, and Italians and Poles celebrate a guy who was Jewish. Wow, our ethnic feast days are really a confusing smorgasbord – oh, and I’m pretty sure Saint Smorgasbord was from Sweden.
At this rate, the next thing we’ll discover is that Saint Peter was Canadian.
Well, when you’re enjoying your corned beef, cabbage and green beer, just remember that if Saint Patrick were here with us today, he probably would prefer spaghetti, meatballs and red wine.
But if my relatives are reading this, I’m just kidding. Of course Saint Patrick was Irish, because on March 17th, everyone is Irish.
Bill Dunn is a freelance writer who resides in Torrington. His most recent book is titled The Gospel According to Morty. He can be contacted via his blog at MerryCatholic.blogspot.com.