A Streak of Color

Haters gonna hate.

Alright, today’s the day. For those of you who might actually live in Ireland, let me explain how we Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. We congregate, pull up our family trees, point out the maiden name of our mothers and grandmothers, claim a 1/4 Irish status, even if we know it’s less, and start partying like we actually know anything about your country. We eat corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, and pretend like we’ve been eating them all year. Catholics have the real claim though, as everyone knows, and remains jealous of. For quite a while in American history, there was no distinguishing between Irish and Catholics, Catholicism often referred to as the Irish religion, or the Irish Church. Chances are, if you’re Catholic you’re Irish, a disgusting invader of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant culture, who crawled across the ocean to infect the innocent little puritans with whiskey, fun, music that doesn’t completely suck, and the Sacraments.

For me, Ireland has always been a symbol more than a place. Sadly, the Ireland of land and buildings has succumbed, albeit to a lesser extent then the rest of Europe, to the powerful forces of secularism. Church attendance is low, they have a vocations crisis to match our own, and their status as a pro-life nation is constantly threatened, though they have been fighting heroically, resisting the EU. However, the Ireland of my heart – that is to say, Catholic Ireland – is an idea worth fighting for. It is this Ireland that lived the paradox – that suffering is redemptive. It is of this Ireland Chesterton spoke of when he wrote  

“For the great Gaels of Ireland / Are the men that God made mad, / For all their wars are merry, / And all their songs are sad.”

It is this Ireland that – in the face of the English Protestant oppression – did not waver in faith, but grew all the stronger, all the harder in their devotion to the Church. It is this Ireland that grows in my heart. It is this Ireland that lived out the Truth that our faith is meant to be joyful – not a yuppy sort of happiness – and saw no incongruence between solemn Masses and wild feast days, mournful processions and fiery dancing, the love of God and the love for our neighbor. This is Ireland alive, a streak of color amidst Post-Reformation grey.

As an American in need of culture, I love to look to Ireland as a spirit, as that bone of rebellion in the body of a Catholic. It is the Irish within me that really bemoans the laws that force our hospitals to administer birth-control, make abortion legal, keep the drinking age so high, and take us to court for putting up manger scenes and the Ten Commandments. Oh, how I wish the faith in Ireland would flourish once again, and bring back to the world it’s fighting spirit.

Awake! St. Patrick, from your grave,
and with you the hearts of men.
For the snakes that worm t’wards Ireland’s soul
need casting out again!  
"I've already heard responses to this matter, don't bother repeating them to me."

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