Saturday 25 November 2017

Mary Hogan: St Patrick 's Day and that unbroken tradition that continues to tell us who we are

The St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin
The St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin

FOR quite a while, St. Patrick – together with everything Irish – was cast disdainfully aside. St. Patrick’s day itself, apart from the token parade, was an out-of-control drink-fest, with our young people staggering and brawling around our streets. Thankfully, due to myriad factors, we have re-claimed our collective Irish National identity and are justifiably proud of ourselves. And St. Patrick has been brought in from the cold. We now celebrate our National Day as joyfully as America has always done.

It is immaterial whether St. Patrick was Welsh and brought to Ireland as a slave. Whether he really held up a shamrock to represent the Trinity and drove “snakes” from Ireland may or may not be true, although it is highly likely that just as he used the shamrock merely as a demonstration, so did the “snakes” represent evil and a harmful belief system.

As a child, the romance and symbolism of this story had a profound impact. I mean, what child could resist the fascinating depiction of a man in green, with a tall mitre and brandishing a threatening crosier, sternly banishing snakes into the sea? Or the vision of this man, shamrock aloft, offering a highly believable explanation for the Three Persons in the One God? Not to speak of the vivid imagery and mystery of an unquenchable fire burning brightly on the Hill of Slane?

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