Old St. Pat’s also reminds me of another church I got to visit more recently than Minara Miwili. Last year, I went to Dublin and saw possibly the oldest St. Pat’s that there is. I landed in Dublin in the early morning on March 17th, and I started by looking up the parade route. Gotta start somewhere, and flights tire me out, so standing still sounded great. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was toward the end of the route. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to mass right before the parade began. I might miss it. When I walked up to enter, I noticed most other tourists weren’t going past the gate even though it was open. Two ushers stood by the door, and one stopped me. He told me that the church was not open, I could go in, but if I went in I should stay for mass. So he made my decision for me, and I committed to staying. The timing ended up being perfect, and mass ended not long before the parade got to the intersection by Christchurch where I had found short people to stand behind.
Just like Old St. Pat’s here in Chicago, it was the words of the priest that stuck with me most at (Oldest) St. Pat’s in Dublin. The elderly man, whose name was also Patrick, told the parishioners that his saintly namesake stood for piety and humility. He also stood for a life of overcoming huge challenges, like slavery, hunger, and isolation. The priest opposed what St. Patrick’s Day had become today. He urged us all to go out and serve the community, to overcome physical and spiritual challenges, to unite communities, and to humbly abstain from the drunkenness we were sure to find out on the street.
Then, we all filed out solemnly, and joined the drunkenness on the street.
I think one of the biggest questions tucked away in any religious person’s mind is how to apply belief to modern life. Regardless of which faith a person subscribes to, it is simply a fact that their faith-based traditions were created a long time ago. Are they still relevant? If they aren’t, should they be?
Personally, I do wish some of Saint Patrick’s story would find its way back into his day on March 17th. We should try to live more like him. Also, he represents more than just a cartoony, national symbol. But I’ve got to say, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Irish heritage and I do love Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s. I think reconciling the original meaning with the modern reality is important. How different people do that is up to them.