A shoutout to another Irish saint

St Brendan the Navigator.jpgI just arrived in midtown Manhattan and I really think the website for this smallish hotel should have noted that it is next to an Irish bar. Getting to bed early tonight is not going to be easy. This is going to be worse than being in the hotel room next to the ice machine at an Episcopal Church convention.

It does seem that today is St. Patrick’s Day and, in New York, this is a pretty big deal. I wanted to share the link of an interesting little item in a recent Wall Street Journal Houses of Worship column that offered a shoutout for a different Irish saint. I bring this up because St. Brendan of Ireland is my patron saint. So there.

What’s the big idea of John J. Miller’s piece? He wants to argue that Brendan, not Patrick, is the logical patron for Irish Americans. This is radical stuff.

The key question: Did the Irish get to North America ahead of the Vikings and, if so, was a missionary saint steering the boat?

If Irish monks really did make it to the Western Hemisphere, then perhaps Brendan is best understood as America’s first immigrant. The story of Irish America, at least in its initial phases, is essentially the epic of a people who uprooted themselves, crossed an ocean and made homes in a place they’d heard about but had not seen.

And if the notion of displacing St. Patrick’s special place on the calendar is too much to abide, then we can compromise: two parties instead of one. Or perhaps more piously, St. Brendan’s feast day on May 16 can be devoted to good works as well as good ale.

I would say amen to that.

Actually, the whole subject of Celtic Christianity — the symbols and the realities — is very interesting and, a few years ago, came close to breaking out as a Godbeat news story. If you are interested in my take on it, click here.

Cheers. Anyone know where you can get a cheap Lenten supper in this town?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.brucesworld.blogspot.com Brucie

    St. Brendan is my patron saint too, it’s nice to see him get some publicity.

  • Jill M

    Aha! Terry knows Jeff Johnson’s music too! And are you also a fan of author Stephen R. Lawhead?

    I greatly enjoyed your article on Celtic Christianity. Thanks for pointing to it!

  • http://www.tmatt.net Terry Mattingly

    Clearly, what we have here is more evidence of the need for the GetReligion.org music links site.

    Each GetReligion.org non-Borg member must post an iTunes mix list — coming in at just under 80 minutes, obviously, with music to listen to while using the blog.

    Special attention should be given to music and artists actually quoted or hinted at in posts. Right?

    Readers could then add their own.

    So the two Jeff Johnson Brendan albums are hereby nominated.

    I think my list will have to start with U2′s “Streets” and end with Bruce Cockburn’s “Rose Above the Sky.” There is a connection there. The first time I met Bono and the band, I gave him a take of Cockburn’s “Humans” album — ending with Rose.

    Bono became a huge Cockburn fan and, I think, some of Cockburn’s style in his lyrics influenced U2, especially in the Unforgetable Fire album.

    Other MOGR mix nominees?

  • http://clientandserver.com dw

    And then there’s “God, Part II,” on Rattle and Hum:

    Heard a singer on the radio
    Late last night
    Says he’s gonna kick the darkness
    Till it bleeds daylight

    And they do credit him in the liner notes.

  • http://kevinjjones.blogspot.com Kevin J Jones

    Since Saint Patrick is my patron saint, I was a little miffed at this article since among other reasons the author treats feast days as a zero-sum game, wherein more veneration of Brendan would necessarily mean less for Patrick.

    Have Christians historically argued over which saint is better than another? It would tie in with the questions raised in the FireFox post comments below about “brand loyalty.” I’d rather get into a “Brendan vs. Patrick” argument than a “Pepsi vs. Coke” one.

  • http://www.tmatt.net Terry Mattingly

    Strange story. That God, Part II reference actually grew out of a conversation between me and Bono after the second Denver Rattle and Hum show. U2 wanted to cover “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and, for some reason, it was not working out., even as a B-side. I kidded him and challenged him to do a tribute to Cockburn some other way, like putting something in a song. He thought for a second and said, yeah, I’m working on a song right now and that might work. That line is from Lovers in a Dangerous Time, if I remember correctly.

    On the other — this is not Patrick vs. Brendan as saints. I think the idea was that there should be a unique bond between the USA and Brendan, due to the voyage.

  • http://www.tmatt.net Terry Mattingly

    Oh my, is my face red.

    I walked out of the hotel here in New York City today and turned left instead of right. This took me past the Irish pub that was so loud the other night.

    Want to guess the name of the place?


    I missed my chance. I could have partied at Brendan’s on St. Patrick’s Day.