A Toast to Saint Patrick

saintpatrickshamrock[1]I like to drink. Beer. Good beer. I especially enjoy the ice cold variety in a frosty mug. The presence of good friends magnifies my enjoyment of this activity many, many times. I think a lot of you may appreciate this. Maybe it isn’t beer you enjoy. Perhaps you prefer fine wine or sweet escapes like margaritas or mojitos. Your preferred libation does not need to contain alcohol. Perhaps coffee or cola could be your cup of tea. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). Regardless, good beverages and good friends make for a good time.

With this in mind, every March 17th, millions of revelers hit their favorite watering hole to recognize that time when a bearded guy beat up some snakes with shamrocks or something. I find our collective ignorance of the deeper meaning of our holidays both amusing and discouraging. I mean, we all love to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously, but acknowledging the origins of a feast can only heighten our celebration. So, I offer you two things to remember on Saint Paddy’s Day to give your revelry purpose.

First, the briefest of histories on the beloved patron of the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. Oh, the horror! As you can check here, he was born and raised in Roman-controlled England, only to be kidnapped and held as a slave in Ireland. Following a message in a dream, he escaped and went home. In thanksgiving, he became a priest and eventually returned to Ireland as a missionary. As a slave, Patrick had gained firsthand knowledge of the clan structure prevalent on the island. This guided his strategy of converting the chieftains and instructing them to subsequently convert their people. If nothing else, this should remind us that people in positions of power and leadership exert an inordinate influence on their subordinates. Specifically, if a leader acts virtuously, his/her people will be moved to follow more so than if a peer had done the same. Conversely, if a leader disappoints, followers feel abject disillusionment. We must understand that the higher the place of authority we occupy, the more profoundly we are called to be a city on a hill, not easily hidden (Matthew 5:14). Managers in the workplace, those in church ministry and of course, parents, need to be aware of who is watching and what message we convey.

Second, the fruit of the vine, or grain, if that is your poison, has long been celebrated throughout human history. As long as it has been enjoyed, it has been abused. This highlights how the gifts of God can lead to the works of the Enemy. The Incarnation tells us our God wanted to experience our lives in order to teach us how to live. Was it an accident that His first public miracle occurred at a wedding involving wine? In a General Audience, Pope Francis said,

“In Cana, Jesus’ disciples become his family and the faith of the church is born. All of us are invited to that wedding feast so that the new wine will no longer run short.”

In this setting, Our Lord affirmed the goodness of marriage, wine, and the intercession of His mother, while simultaneously foreshadowing the Eucharist. Amazing! “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

So enjoy the good gifts and good company that God gives you, never forgetting that in moderation you can still display the conviviality that uplifts those around you. G.K. Chesterton, renowned Catholic thinker and drinker, said, “Moderation is not a compromise; moderation is a passion; the passion of great judges.”

About Mark Andrews

Mark Andrews lives with his wife and two children in a Chicago suburb. He teaches high school math for a living and sixth grade religious education at his parish. He is also a lector, singer, and Knights of Columbus member. Mark's novel The Joy of the Lord is a historical fiction about the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. It is available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.
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