Holy St. Padraig, pray for us

stpadraigHappy “Shamrock Day,” to you?

I have no idea how this national-angle story ended up in the Waco Tribune-Herald — in a city that is not exactly a major center for Roman Catholic culture and news, unless we are talking about Baylor University wars over the role of faith in higher education. But I fear that there really is something to this story, because it’s, well, so logical in this day and age.

Read on, and may the saints preserve us. Here’s the lede:

Faith and begorrah, is nothing sacred?

Some folks are trying to transform the name of Tuesday’s holiday from St. Patrick’s Day to “Shamrock Day.” Card shops have banners proclaiming the occasion; the Disney Channel is using the term; and some places in this country have changed the name of their community celebrations of Celtic heritage to the “nonoffending” terminology.

And that offends some folks.

I looked around a bit, trying to find other coverage of this “St. Patrick Wars” story, but there is little out there. This seems to be early in the cycle of making the change, although you can see evidence of an up-tick in a general Google search.

Reporter Terri Jo Ryan’s story includes a hint of a national angle — you’ll be stunned to know this trend has hit California, of all places — but she mainly talks to Waco people. You have to have an elderly Catholic priest in there, of course, and he’s even from Ireland:

“I’m afraid I could use all kinds of expressions that wouldn’t be principled to describe this trend,” said Monsignor Mark Deering, 88, senior-most Catholic cleric in these parts. Deering, retired pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church of Waco, came here from Ireland in 1953 as a freshly minted missionary priest and never left.

“I don’t think that would ever be a success to call it Shamrock Day,” he said.

People the world over, of every culture and race, enjoy being Irish for the day, he added. And he said he’s heard no one take great umbrage before at having a Christian saint’s name attached to the day of merriment.

“In fact, in New York City, when the parade comes down Fifth Avenue, the Jews take more joy in it than almost anyone,” Deering said.

What you don’t get in this tiny story is a sense of just how important St. Patrick is, in terms of Christian history and, especially, the history of Christian missionary work. Click here for a bit of information about this subject.

We are talking about one of the giants, a saint who is still venerated in the East as well as the West. You better believe there’s one in my family’s icon corner, next to St. Brendan (my patron), St. Hilda and St. Brigid. I have seen more than a few icons of St. Padraig in Orthodox parishes in my travels and he is — to say the least — still very popular in Irish Catholic circles. Duh.

So if this is a trend or even a mini-trend, where is the national coverage? Put this up on the Drudge Report or let Chris Matthews tee off on it and we’d have a firestorm, especially if President Barack Obama were to take a shot at this topic during one of his scheduled meetings today with Irish-American leaders.

So did I miss something? Is there coverage of this topic out there in the mainstream?

Art: The icon of St. Patrick is available from The Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

Print Friendly

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.

  • Jerry

    My local paper, the Contra Costa Times, had a quiz about today. A couple of questions from it follow. The first one speaks to the question of the Jewish contribution to Irish-American food. The second should be a “no brainer” to readers of this blog:

    1. Jewish immigrants to New York City were responsible for perhaps the major component of Irish-American cuisine.

    11. St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate:
    A. The pride of the Irish people
    B. A low-maintenance ground cover that remained green year-round
    C. The holy trinity
    D. A virtually free source of nourishment

  • Darel

    The United States is following in the footsteps of Japan here. Before 1945, Japan had a wealth of holidays devoted to the celebration of Shintoism and of the Emperor. After 1945 they were transformed into the most inane sort of commemorations which either worship nature or are little more than opportunities for material overconsumption.

    One has to marvel at a country like Japan which celebrates both “Coming of Age Day” and “Children’s Day” as national holidays in the midst of a fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman. The same general trend is going on in the US. We must have our holidays even though — and perhaps especially as — the cultural foundations for their meaningful celebration at the scale of the nation have crumbled into dust.

    Countries with zombie banks should have zombie holidays as well!

  • Norman

    I just spotted this alert at the WaPo’s website:

    Live, NOW: Obama Speaks at Shamrock Ceremony

  • Norman

    I guess this sort of thing isn’t even news anymore. There’s no debate, no notification and no discussion in the press while are traditions are being severed from their roots. One day, out of the blue, up pops: Live, NOW: Obama Speaks at Shamrock Ceremony

  • Pingback: » ‘Cause that’s the kind of guy I am A Different Street

  • Norman

    Well, I was fooled by synchronicity: the Shamrock ceremony turned out to be an innocuous event whereby the Taoiseach of Ireland presented the President with a bowl of shamrocks. I just wanted to clear that up myself, mea culpa

  • Martha

    Oh, so they want to call it Shamrock Day, do they?

    Okay, fine. Go ahead. But when the Day of Judgement comes, don’t go crying to St. Patrick to help you (according to tradition, after his forty days and nights fasting and prayer on Croagh Patrick, St.Patrick was granted the favour that the Irish should be spared the horrors of the Day of Judgement and when that time came, Patrick could judge the Irish himself.)

    You should be all right, though, tmatt ;-)

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy

    Disney Channel has a history of its pre-K shows using euphamisms for real holidays and Christian holy-days. I recall when my kids were watching “Rolly-Poly-Ollie” (not on any more) around Christmas time, they had “Jingle-Jangle Day”. I know I’ve seen many similar examples on Disney (and other kids things) over the years, but that one really stuck out.

  • Pingback: Kenneth Hynek » Blog Archive » Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

  • http://www.magdalenesegg.blogspot.com Rev. Michael Church

    We Lutherans would never change the name of St. Olav’s Day. Of course, if we did, nobody would care. Or even notice. We’re quiet that way.

  • Julia

    The Wiggles are not following the Disney mold.

    My grandchildren watch a beautiful Christmas video by the Wiggles. These Aussies are sticking with the real Christmas.
    Really amazing – you don’t see this anywhere these days. The video is not available on YouTube, but the audio is.

    Here’s The First Noel. Notice the album cover with young children in a live Nativity scene. that is taken from the video where young children really do act out the Nativity scene.

    There is also a lovely song on the video focussing on the Mother holding her child and then showing lots of different mothers from around the world holding their babies. It made me misty-eyed. I think this scene has the following song.


    In a manger, in a stable
    Unto us this holy night a little baby’s born.
    Mother Mary, father Joseph
    Unto us this holy night a little baby’s born.

    [Trumpet interlude]

    Following the drummer boy
    Guided by the Eastern star
    Following the drummer boy
    To the east…

    See the Wise Men, see the Shepherds
    Unto us this Holy night a little baby’s born
    Mother Mary, father Joseph
    Unto us this holy night a little baby’s born.

    [Trumpet interlude, music fades]

    How un-PC. And these guys are supposed to be gazillionaires.

  • http://mattmardislecroy.blogspot.com/ Matt

    So the article alleging a vast secularist conspiracy against the Christian roots of Saint Patrick’s Day can cite one actual concrete instance of this happening -and it’s in Berkley?

    Gullible much?

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy


    Yes, you are right, the Wiggles have been an exception. We bought that DVD a few years ago. It includes religious songs, including some they or their friends wrote. And Greg Brady’s on it too!

    The boys are 7 and almost 6. They still enjoy some of the Wiggles, including this Christmas DVD. I think, however, that Mom and Dad always liked them more since we’ve traveled to Oz and have relatives there.

  • http://storyspell.blogspot.com/2007/03/saint-patrick-steadfast-man.html Donna Farley

    I’d be curious to know how many people today know if a shamrock has three leaves or four.

    Perhaps next year Christian bloggers should do a sychroblog on the topic of Saint Patrick, tagging with “Shamrock Day” as well…

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy

    Whoops. I was speaking of a different DVD called Santa’s Rockin’” which includes religious songs as well, like the one Julia mentioned. BTW, I have noticed that The Wiggles have been bumped to early morning showtime…and the whole pre-K programming is scaled back to end before noon, even on the east coast. We’ve outgrown it, but we have had to find ways to avoid the crass cartoons on the various kids’ channels. [We're now into Boomerang.]

  • Stoo

    How un-PC

    Seriously what does PC even mean anymore?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    St. Patrick, pray for us
    St. Brendan, pray for us
    St. Brigid, pray for us
    St. Aidan, pray for us
    St. Kevin, pray for us
    All ye Irish saints, pray for us.

  • http://ulstertaig.blogspot.com Shane O’Neill

    It’s sad that his memory is sullied with the wanton insobriety associated with the day. I once heard a media commentator refer to the parades as drunken jihads. Not too far wrong there I’m afraid. I can only dread the vomit laden paths tomorrow as I walk to work. 40 shades of green indeed.

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    Rev. Michael, do you mean St. Olaf the Royal Martyr of Norway? If so, the Orthodox will notice. We will care.

  • Jonah

    Hey, Christians renamed a few holidays too, most notably turning Saturnalia into Christmas. Hallmark’s version may actually be closer to the original! Anyway, live and let live–why should religious holidays be a secular affair? Let Catholics have St. Patrick, and bar-hoppers have Shamrock / Guinness Day.

  • Freethinker07

    Let’s change Martin Luther King day to Racial Pride Day

  • FW Ken

    I doubt shamrocks could give us this:


    Though I prefer this version, for sentimental reasons:


  • Mike Johnson

    Regarding this: “Live, NOW: Obama Speaks at Shamrock Ceremony”, I have seen several articles that mention a Shamrock Ceremony while at the same time repeatedly using “St. Patricks Day” to describe the occassion. So it seems that it is a special ceremony involving the shamrock symbol, not a diss on St. Patricks Day.
    Not that I am not very sure that eventually we will all be told that St. Patricks Day is offensive to someone, somewhere and dropped from accepted public usage.

  • http://knapsack.blogspot.com Jeff

    Given the close connection between shamrocks and Patrick’s teaching on the meaning of the Trinity, i’d be quite amused (while certainly annoyed) while the PC forces foregrounded a Trinitarian aspect of St. Patrick even over his ethic associations. Now there’s some orthodoxy for you!

  • Pingback: PC Police? Some Want St. Patrick's Day to Be 'Shamrock Day'

  • http://newsbusters.org/ StewartIII
  • http://homepage.mac.com/gerardharbison/blog/RWP_blog.html Gerard Harbison

    If you’re going to use the Irish form of ‘Patrick’, remember to put a fada (accent) on the first ‘a’. It’s Pádraig, to denote a long ‘aw’ sound in the first syllable.

    Fadas are not optional in Irish.

    Frankly, as an Irish citizen I’m outraged that a group of politically-correct Yanks think they can rename the feast-day of OUR national saint. !@#$ imperialists!

  • Kit Ingoldby

    You mentioned several times that Roman Catholics and inparticular, Irish Roman Catholics hold St Patrick in high regard.

    I think it is only fair to point out that Protestants and in particular, several million Irish Protestants also hold St Patrick in high regard.

    One of those happy points we can all agree upon.

  • Jay

    It seems unlikely that St. Paddy’s day is going away in California. There are too many cheap political points to be scored by politicians who are Irish for a day.

    PS: Gerald, you may be irate, but most of the rest of your countrymen want the tourist dollars from Americans who assume that March 17th features a lot of pageantry in Patrick’s native land.

  • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber H. E. Baber

    Here’s a more general question about the phenomena of “detoxifying” celebrations that were originally Christian holy days. Why do secularists and the culturally sensitive think it’s vital to strip out religious imagery and legend?

    Most educated Romans, and probably most educated Greeks, took their gods with more than a grain of salt. Where they manifestations of some monotheistic deity, daemons, or merely allegorical figures? There was no consensus, but everyone participated in the ceremonies and sacrifices, rehearsed the myths, and invoked the gods–whatever they were or weren’t.

    So why don’t contemporary secularists and cultural sensitives go this route? Yes, by all means, let us have nativity plays in the schools and creches in the park, celebrations of saint’s days, and all that cultural stuff. Some believe these stories are historically accurate and for some they form an essential part of their belief system; others regard them as mere myths and fairy tales. For all of us, the Christian stories are part of our cultural package, along with the Greco-Roman myths, Grimm’s fairy tales, Aesop’s Fables, the Arthurian legends, Robin Hood and the myth of George Washington and the Cherry Tree?

    Why do secularists these days–because it wasn’t always so–regard Christian stories, practices and symbols as so offensive that they have to be suppressed rather than, like the Greco-Roman elite, regarding them as part of the package of stories and traditions that form a part of civic life and enrich our culture?

  • Bern

    Why do the secularists . . . etc?
    Why did the Christians (when they were able to)?

  • http://www.followingthelede.blogspot.com Sabrina

    And you expect to find a secularist here to answer your question, H.E.? ;-)

  • David Gillies

    I’m a hardcore atheist, and I find this politically correct pandering to be utterly horrendous. Whether you believe in God or not, the fact remains that March 17th IS the Feast of St. Patrick, and all-the lily-livered multi-culti contortions there are do not change that fact.

    The sort of people who are offended by any mention of religion are the sort of people to whom it is not merely justified but obligatory to give offence.

  • Fr. Ignatius

    Just wanted you to know, the icon that is being used a copyrighted image. The image comes from Holy Transfiguration Monastery. If, in the future, you use one of the icons from the monastery, please tell where you got it from. Thank you.

  • Pingback: Steynian 336 « Free Canuckistan!

  • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber H. E. Baber

    Bravo, David Gillies! And religious folk are often the worst in this regard.

    During the Crucifix Wars at Georgetown about a decade ago the (Catholic) administration removed crucifixes from classrooms in order to avoid offending non-Catholics. Non-Catholic students and faculty, including the Jewish and Muslim chaplains, protested and demonstrated in favor of putting them back up.

  • http://aconservativeteacher.blogspot.com A Conservative Teacher

    Change it all they want- I still call Christmas Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Gene

    I am absolutely appalled by this. I cannot even understand why this is happening. They say it is to be more culturally diverse? Isn’t changing the names of other cultures celebration the exact opposite of what is “Cultural Diversity”? As an Irishman I am disgusted as I would not suggest to change the names of other secular holidays. When will it stop. We are completely destroying the identities that worked so hard to build this country. Have respect for the past. Honor those who sacrificed so that you could have. What do you think JFK would say if this was to come up if he was still alive? (God rest his soul) I know exactly what he would say. I am sure you all have an idea too.

    I think there should be a new holiday make it in March – We can call it Culture Day- One Culture Day Everyone of different backgrounds could put together floats, cook food, dancing etc. That way we could all look and see what other cultures have and do and maybe we would respect each other a bit more.

  • Dave

    HE Baber (#30), the problem the secularists have had is not a multiplicity of gods getting reverence, but that public displays of religion in the US are all Christian, all the time. The move to secularize “Winter Holiday” and “Spring Break”, eg, arose from a sense of suffocation by followers of other paths.

    That being said, it’s also true that once a movement gets started it develops a momentum of its own that doesn’t recognize when it’s achieved its initial ends. It has never occurred to me — 30 years a Humanist and 20 years a Pagan — to regard St Patrick’s Day as an attempt to impose Catholicism. At least in the US it’s an ethnic holiday and an excuse for a party.