Not Irish on St. Paddy’s Day

Saint Paddy’s Day — the day everyone has a chance to be Irish for 24 hours. This is my day for celebrating as well.

I mean, why not? There are strains of Celtic genes somewhere in my bloodline. I’m sure of it. Kind of. Not really. All I can claim is possible Celtic-Spanish roots, as evidenced by my Grandpa who looked like a cross between Bing Crosby and Anthony Hopkins, and my sis who inherited the reddish hair, freckles, and blue eyes.

While I didn’t get the Celtic look, today’s still one of my favorite feast days, so I’m picking up my favorite Irish cookbook and will be whipping up some yumminess, while listening to Rend Collective, to celebrate one of my favorites.

While most people have completely forgotten what the day is actually about, it’s a great opportunity to share about our faith through St Patrick’s life (such a crazy story – you can’t make this stuff up!).

At the age of 16, the Roman-Brit teen was kidnapped by Irish pirates and forced into slavery. After six years of captivity, Patrick was able to escape and return to his homeland. Though he was safe and removed from his afflictions in Ireland, Patrick could not take Ireland out of his heart. As he prepared for his vocation to the priesthood, Patrick felt for the pagan people he left behind. His mission soon became very clear: to minister to and evangelize the native people of Ireland.

This is what I find most inspiring about Patrick: he returned to the land of his captivity, to the very people who mistreated him. But instead of holding a grudge or seeking vengeance, he showed them love and mercy. In his lifetime, hundreds of people converted to the Christian faith. Countless men and women, nobility as well as peasants, and even royalty, were baptized and many went on to become missionaries, priests, nuns, and monks. Of course, Patrick met with a lot of opposition. He was persecuted, imprisoned, threatened, but never discouraged. In his “Confessio,” he continually offers his life to God as a sacrifice, willing to face martyrdom if necessary.

Growing up, St. Patrick’s story always amazed me: the simple obedience of one man gave new life to an entire country. It’s a story that always awakens a missionary zeal within me, and provokes me to ask, “What can I do? What can I offer up for the Kingdom of God?”

I did have the opportunity to be a missionary, inspired, partly, by St. Patrick. I responded to the call to serve one year in the Midwest at a college campus ministry as a women’s leader in an ecumenical setting. But what ended up happening was that I was called to love and forgive the people I served and worked with. Perhaps I didn’t go through as dramatic of a situation as St Patrick did, but I did face my fair share of moments where I was called to be patient, show mercy, and witness to the Gospel even when I was told something offensive. At times I would hear negative things about Catholicism from other Christians. But more often, I would receive imprudent remarks about my cultural background. The kind of comments that were borderline racist. I gave them the benefit of assuming their stereotypes were mere ignorance, but other times they were just being mean.

In those moments, I was called to clarify with patience, forgive the offense and witness with Christ’s love and joy. Thankfully, I got over it pretty easily, because when you’re secure in your identity in Christ, no one’s opinion of you, disrespect, or ignorance can really shake you (I talk more about that here). Had he held any grudges, St Patrick wouldn’t have been able to face the people who mistreated him, nor choose to love them. That’s the key thing here: love is a choice, not just a feeling. Choose to love those who are difficult, as Christ calls us to. (Not easy, but it can be done!)

If you’re ever in a situation when someone says something offensive to you or about you, here are some things I’ve found to be helpful:

  • Take a deep breath. Make it two if you need to. Then say a quick prayer.
  • Many times people don’t actually mean to offend. Assume first that they may be speaking out of ignorance or carelessness.
  • If you do feel angry, it’s understandable. You should recognize your dignity and worth. However, it’s always best not to (re)act out of anger.
  • Clarify the misconception if necessary, but remain calm and respectful. It doesn’t benefit anyone to exchange heated words. Genuine kindness is the best comeback.
  • No matter what anyone actually thinks, know that you are a beloved son or daughter of God the Father — as is the other person!
  • Remember Mother Teresa’s words: “People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.” Then, keep in mind that forgiveness doesn’t mean that what they did is okay, but it’s choosing not to let negative feelings get the better of you. It’s recognizing that the other person is wounded and in need of mercy.

If you haven’t read The Confession of St. Patrick, check it out. It’s inspiring and a short read! With that said, I have every reason to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, whether or not I have Celtic roots (and that’s okay, ’cause Patrick wasn’t Irish either). Today, I’m celebrating the boldness of this great hero, and the call that we all have to love radically. Happy Feast of Saint Patrick!