My maternal grandfather, whose parents came from Ireland, used to called St. Patrick's day a celebration for Irish amateurs. I think he resented the casual, easy-going appropriation of Irish heritage by those who had not suffered the discrimination and hard times which greeted many of our Irish immigrants. Not only were Irish immigrants mocked for their cultural differences, but especially for their steadfast Roman Catholic faith, which made their patriotism and loyalty to America suspect.
We are all too familiar with the purgation and purification which is going on in the Church because of the sexual abuse by clergy and subsequent mismanagement by bishops. Perhaps because of the litigious nature of our society and the precedent set by the settlement of the early abuse claims with large monetary rewards, the crisis hit America first and particularly hard. We are now seeing similar instances of abuse exposed in Ireland and other countries in the European Union.
The Catholic faith in Ireland, already threatened with the hubris that can come from a prospering economy, was dealt a blow from within by the revelations of the extent of the abuse and complicity of the bishops in covering it up. The result has been a rapid secularization of the Irish, especially of the younger generations, never seen since the time of Patrick.
On this feast of Patrick bishop and saint, let us keep alive the true spirit of the Irish, the spirit nourished by the presence of Christ always with us, in nature and others to be sure, but crucially in the Church and the Eucharist. This spirit, hopeful even in adversity, can sustain us now and forever. Easter follows Lent.