Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all. I’ll keep this post short so you can get back to your revelry and shenanigans, knocking back pints cheerily tinted with the traditional ethyl – [4 – [ [4 – [ethyl -[(3 – sulfophenyl) methyl] amino] phenyl] – (4 – hydroxy – 2 – sulfophenyl) methylidene] – 1 – cyclohexa – 2, 5 – dienylidene] – [(3 – sulfophenyl) methyl] azanium and enjoying good crack. But as you celebrate, systematically inducing macrovesicular steatosis in your liver and merrily assaulting your fellow alcohol abusers, it may slightly increase your rate of metabolization of toxins to reflect on why we honour St. Patrick’s Day.
Who was St. Patrick? Who was this figure, so shrouded in myth and mystery, so deeply connected with the Irish identity and so symbolic of the Emerald Isle and its friendly folk? St. Patrick was born Mick Kelly Seamus Donovan Paddy Donegan Brannagh O’Dooley O’Flannigan Donnchadh Maeleachlainn Toirdhealbhach Ánrothán Oilleóg Robhartachbairrfhionn Xiao-Desjardins circa 387 A.D. in Britain, but his friends just called him Finnegan Fergus Uallgarg Cearnaigh Muldoon. When he was 16, he was kidnapped by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain. Years later, he escaped back to Britain and then entered the church. When later he returned to Ireland as a bishop, he began baptizing and converting thousands of Irish from their unclean pagan idolatries. But how did a simple churchman become so revered to the twinkly-eyed, stationary-arms-dancing people of Eire?
The fact of the matter is that St. Patrick was not just a simple churchman. He was much more than that: for one, he conceived and directly oversaw the process that led to the complete extirpation of all species of snakes from Ireland. But there is more: he opened dozens of twee, touristy, faux-traditional pubs across the old country. He formulated, out of ingredients harvested from peat bogs and potato fields, the same FD&C Green No. 3 food dye the Irish use today in all their meals. He founded a non-governmental organization that provided micro-loans programs targeted to destitute and dispossessed leprechauns, who then had the resources to start small home-based footwear manufacturing businesses and thereafter hide their earnings of gold in pots at ends of rainbows. Through his piety and prayer, he bestowed upon each and every Irishman the gifts of blarney, fiddle-playing, alcohol dependency, vulnerability to stereotyping, and bumper stickers inducing others to kiss them because of their national heritage. He single-handedly invented the Aran sweater, jigs and reels, limericks, tin whistles, shamrocks, the Irish Rovers, and magically delicious Lucky Charms™ cereal, and still found time to be a champion bare-knuckle boxer, all while getting legless over a few Guinness every eve. No, this was no simple churchman — this man truly was, and remains, Ireland itself. And yet, despite his tireless nation-building, his well-earned iconic status, and the number of miracles he performed, St. Patrick has never been formally canonized. To add insult to injury, Pope John Paul II never made any effort to speed up the process, despite Sinéad O’Connor’s jesting, playful public gestures of goodwill.