Tuesday, February 11, 2014

St. Patrick's Greatness

Saint Patrick stained glass window from
Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA.
      An Englishman who had toured the United States said to an American friend:
      "I cannot understand it. On the 22nd of February I supposed there would be a grand national demonstration in honor of George Washington. But nothing occured. On the 17th of March the city I was in was decorated in green flags and Irish emblems fluttered everywhere, the hotel menu card was in green ink and the evening paper came out in green.
      "Bands played in the streets, men paraded, the city police force and military turned out, there were balls, banquets and public speaking. What I want to know is whether St. Patrick or George Washington is the nation's patron saint."
      Some idea of how powerful a figure St. Patrick was may be gained by comparing the memory of St. Patrick, born 1,535 years ago, with that of George Washington, who has been dead a little more than a century.
      St. Patrick went to Ireland when it was plunged in the darkness of paganism. He confronted a hostile people with a dozen assistants. He carried the new civilization with him. He met a fighting race and subdued it single-handed.
      His first work in reaching a community was to preach the gospel in the native tongue of the people. This he did with Pauline fervor and a fire of conviction which fired the heart and imagination of the people. You can look at the work of any Irish priest to-day and see the duplication of St. Patrick's method. First a talk to the people, then the building of a church, then the erection of a school, and then the exhortation to practice the Christian virtues, the succor of the widow and the orphans, the weak, the fallen and the aged.
      Patrick established universities which, by the labor of the inmates, were self-sustaining, and to which the youth of England flocked by thousands. Europe, during his lifetime, was in conflagration. Hordes of the north, Goths and Vandals, ravaged the south, and the lamp of learning, extinguished on the continent, burned brightly in the cloisters of the monasteries and universities of Ireland. Patrick translated nothing into Irish. He taught the Irish Latin and implanted, full born, the civilization of Christian Rome.
      He introduced the arts and crafts, developed agriculture, taught industry, application and love of work. Institutions of learning, churches and homes of religious workers, training schools and seminaries, were supported, not by contributions, but by labor of the inmates.
      From idleness to industry, from fighting to the arts of peace, from Druidical worship to Christian practice and ideals, St. Patrick turned the whole island by personal effort and example, by incessant exhausting toil. He died as he lived, without the possession of a groat.
      The arts and letters, science and biblical knowledge which fled from the continent took refuge in the famous schools which made Durrow and Arragh the universities of the west. To the eternal honor of Irish hospitality be it said that these thousands of strangers from every country in Europe were not only welcomed, but supplied gratuitousily with books, clothes and food.
       The scholarship thus engendered refurbished Europe when, a century's anarchy over, the Irish missionaries emerged from schools and flashed over the charred remains of European civilization the sacred light of learning.
      So, when the bearer of the name Patrick, laborer and toiler though he be, remembers that his title is descended from one of the proudest in Rome, patrician, and thinks in his poverty and humility of the ancient glory of his people, where is there an American who will not honor in him the survival through the centuries of the pride and learning and achievement of his ancestors, and join him on St. Patrick's day in singing "All Hail to St. Patrick!" The Marion Daily Mirror, March 17th, 1909.

      As part of a more than fifty-year-old Chicago tradition, the Chicago River is dyed green in observance of St. Patrick's Day. The actual event does not necessarily occur on St. Patrick's Day and is scheduled for the Saturday of the closest weekend. The dye takes days to dissipate. The tradition of dyeing the river green arose by accident when some plumbers used fluorescein dye to trace sources of illegal pollution discharges. The dyeing of the river is still sponsored by the local plumbers union. 

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