Thursday, March 16, 2017

Donal Mahoney writes

A St. Patrick’s Day Memory

Some folks have a problem with authority,

legitimate and otherwise, and I have spent

a lifetime festering in that group.

An event in youth convinced me that 

big people are no different than little people

despite their titles and the homage paid them.

The event that changed me was in third grade

when a nun asked me if I was cousin to a cardinal 

in the Catholic Church. She had heard my father,

an immigrant blue collar worker, was first cousin

to Cardinal Stritch. Little as I was I had no idea but 

I said I’d ask my father and I did that night at supper.

He kept eating his cabbage and potatoes

then finally said we were cousins to the cardinal

whose people also took a boat from Ireland to America.

So I blinked and said to him, “Pa, Sister wants to know

why don’t we call Cardinal Stritch and tell him we’re here.”

Looking up from his cabbage and potatoes,

my father took a sip of tea, shot a laser in my eye,

sniffed a bit and said, “Ask the good sister 

why the good cardinal doesn’t call us.”



  1. Saint Patrick's Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig, "the Day of the Festival of Patrick") is celebrated on 17 March, the traditional death date Ireland's foremost patron saint, Pádraig (Patrick, ca. 385–461), though in his writings he referred to himself by his Latin name Patricius ("father of the citizens" according to his 7th-century biographer Tírechán). His original name was probably Maewyn Succat, and he was born into a Christian family in Roman Britannia. At 16 he was enslaved by Irish pirates and spent six years in captivity before escaping. En route to Britannia he was captured again and spent 60 days in captivity in Tours, France, where he learned about French monasticism. After receiving a vision he returned to Ireland, baptized over 100,000 pagans, and founded more than 300 churches. According to his 7th-century biographer Muirchú moccu Machtheni, the local druids had a prophecy about him:
    Across the sea will come Adze-head, crazed in the head,
    his cloak with hole for the head, his stick bent in the head.
    He will chant impieties from a table in the front of his house;
    all his people will answer: "so be it, so be it."
    When he returned to Ireland as an evangelist he took with him an ash walking stick, which he thrust into the ground while he was preaching; at Aspatria his listeners were so stubborn in accepting his faith that the stick took root before he had accomplished his mission. In a 1726 treatise on Irish botany a Dr. Molyneux first claimed that Patrick used a shamrock, a three-leafed plant, to teach the concept of the Holy Trinity (God the father, the son, an the holy spirit) to the Irish, who worshiped many triads of gods. Though post-glacial Ireland never had snakes, Patrick was credited with driving them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast on Cruach Phádraig ("Patrick's stack") in County Mayo; on the last Sunday in July thousands of pilgrims climb to the top of the hill. When drove out the dragon Oilliphéist, the monster cut the route of the Shannon river; when the beast swallowed a drunken piper named Ó Ruairc, he continued to play his instrument inside Oilliphéist's stomach, causing such annoyance that it coughed him up. In additon, Patrick slew the serpent witch Caoránach, the mother of demons and devils, in Loch Dearg ("red lake") in Donegal, turning the water red (in other accounts the lake was named for the blood that flowed from her thigh when she was slain by Fionn mac Cumhaill, the legendary father of Ireland's greatest poet Oisín); pilgrims spend three days in August praying and fasting there.

  2. Though Patrick was never formally canonized, by the seventh century he was regarded as Ireland's patron saint, and the Irish began celebrating his feast day in the 9th century though it was not officially recognized until the early 17th century, at the instigation of the Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding in his role as a member of the commission to reform the Breviary, the book that contains all the liturgical texts; he also founded the College of St. Isidore in Roma to educate Irish priests, which became the Catholic Church's strongest advocate of the Irish cause for centuries. The Russian Orthodox Church added the feast day of Saint Patrick to its liturgical calendar in 2017. St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in Montreal since 1759, after the British conquest of New France (Nouvelle-France), and St. Patrick's Day parades began in North America in the 18th century but did not spread to Ireland until 1903, when it was celebrated in Waterford as part of Irish Language Week; until late in the 20th century, St. Patrick's Day itself was often a bigger celebration among the diaspora than it was in Ireland, and the North American practices have largely shaped the forms elsewhere. (The shortest St. Patrick's Day is in Dripsey, County Cork, the 100 yards between the village's two pubs.) Due to the Irish diaspora caused by the potato famine of the 19th century, the occasion is celebrated in more countries, including Korea and Japan, than any other national festival, though it is a public holiday only in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat (the "Emerald Island of the Caribbean"), founded in 1642 by Irish refugees from Saint Kitts and Nevis; the holiday there also commemorates a failed slave uprising that occurred on 17 March 1768. Irish MP James O'Mara introduced the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act in 1903, which made St. Patrick's Day an official holiday; he later authored a law (not repealed until the 1970s) that closed Brtish pubs on that day. In 1916 the Irish Volunteers held 38 St. Patrick's Day parades throughout Ireland, involving 6,000 marchers, almost half of whom were said to be armed; the following month they launched the Easter Rising against British rule. During the subsequent Irish War of Independence and Civil War, St. Patrick's Day celebrations were muted, although the day was sometimes chosen to hold large political rallies. After the independent Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) was founded in 1922 the only state-organized observances until 1931 were a military procession and trooping of the colors and an Irish-language mass attended by government ministers; in 1927 the government banned the selling of alcohol on St Patrick's Day, not repealed until 1961. In Northern Ireland, though St. Patrick's Day was a public holiday, the unionist governments did not observe it for decades; in 1985 the Orange Order held its own St. Patrick's Day parade, and since 1998 there have been joint Protestant-Catholic parades throughout Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, in 1996, The Republic of Ireland (Poblacht na hÉireann) began using the holiday to promote Ishish culture; in 1997 it became a three-day event and by 2006 a five-day event.

  3. The festival commemorates Patrick's introduction of Christianity to Ireland and the heritage and culture of the Irish in general via public parades and festivals, church attendance, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. Céilithe (social gatherings where people play music, dance, tell jokes or riddles, tell stories, and recite poems) are common. Traditionally, Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day. In Ireland, at the end of the celebrations, a shamrock is put into the bottom of a cup which is then filled with alcohol, a toast is drunk, and the shamrock (if not swallowed with the drink) is tossed over the shoulder for good luck. Green ribbons have been worn on St, Patrick's Day since at least the 1680s; in the 1640s the Irish Catholic Confederation adopted a green harp flag, and the Friendly Brothers of St Patrick, an Irish fraternity founded in ca. 1750, adopted green as its color. However, when the Anglo-Irish chivalric Order of St. Patrick was founded in 1783 it adopted blue as its color, which led for awhile to blue being associated with St Patrick until the United Irishmen revolted against British rule in 1798; the song "Wearing of the Green" (exiting in many variants, the most popular one by the 19th-century actor/playwright Dion Boucicault) lamented the persecution of their supporters for wearing green, and the color's association with Patrick grew throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Samuel Alphonsius Stritch was born in Nahville, Tennessee, to Irish immigrants. His father moved from Dublin to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1879 and boarded with the O'Malley family, marrying Katherine O'Malley the following year. Born in 1887, Stritch finished grammar school at age 10 and high school at 14, then entered St. Gregory's Preparatory Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, from where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1903. Bishop Thomas Sebastian Byrne sent him to the Pontifical Urbanian Athenaeum De Propaganda Fide in Roma. Though at 22 he was too young to be ordained, Pius X granted him a dispensation in 1910. Returning to the US he became Byrne's private secretary in Memphis, Tennessee. Benedictus XV named him, at 34, to be the second Bishop of Toledo, Ohio, the youngest bishop in the US, in 1921. In Toledo he established Mary Manse College in 1922 and incorporated the diocesan Catholic Charities in 1923 and presided at the confirmation of entertainer Danny Thomas, who founded St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis in 1962 at Stritch's suggestion. In 1930 he became the 5th archbishop of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he supported socially liberal groups such as the Catholic Worker Movement and the Catholic Youth Organization and a critic of the popular dmagogue Rev. Charles Coughlin. In 1939 he was elected chairman of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the predecessor of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also served as vice-chancellor of the Extension Society, a fundraising organization which supports poor dioceses in the US. Despite his own protests, his boyhood frind from Roma, pope Pius XII, made him the fourth archbishop of Chicago, Illinois, 1940. Six years later Pius named him Cardinal-Priest of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura. In Chicago, Stritch oversaw the establishment of the first American chapter of the Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei (known as Opus Dei, "Work of God") and launched the Christian Family Movement. In 1958 he became the first American to head a dicastery of the Roman Curia; as pro-prefect of the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith), responsible for missionary work and related activities. However, that year, due to a blood clot, his right arm to be amputated above the elbow, he suffered a stroke, and died.


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