By SHELLEY McVEA
Pick a saint, any saint. Most of us would be hard pressed to name one beyond the big three – Nicholas (my favourite), Valentine, and Patrick.
Veneration and celebrating of saints seems to have gone out of fashion not only for secular people, but for many of us religious types as well.
In the past, saints were the ones to inspire us, to show us the way, to embody God’s love for the world. Now we have superheroes to save us. If we’re lucky we might meet a real-time hero as well.
I did not know too much about St. Patrick. Historically there is not much information available. But that has never stopped me from celebrating his special day on March 17.
I did an Ancestry test a few months ago, hoping that I would find some Irish DNA. No such luck. Many of us enjoy green beer – or have loved an Irish lad or lass along the way – both worthy reasons to salute the day regardless of our religious affiliation.
So today I’ll wear my shamrock earrings and lyre brooch. (In fact I could have had an entire green wardrobe if retailers had their way. I’ve been bombarded with internet advertisements for every piece of green clothing imaginable). Then I’ll read a Yeats poem. And I will salute the country that has given us some of the western world’s best writing.
When I did research St. Patrick, however, I found quite a thrilling story.
The saint lived sometime in 5th century Britain. At 16 he was captured by Irish seamen and taken as a slave to Ireland where he remained for six years, looking after animals. Eventually he escaped, returning to England.
After a spiritual awakening years later he felt compelled to return to the place of his captivity to share creator God’s love with Ireland. He has now become the Patron Saint of his adopted country.
There are many heroes (or saints) of every nationality who have braved hostility to return to home countries or to places in need of help or justice.
Sometimes they do this at the price of their lives. Other times they are able to enact laws, or share wisdom, or embody love to many and enjoy praise and long life.
As we raise a glass to salute our Irish friends, and especially St. Patrick, may we also strive to live lives that benefit our close and far neighbours. To “set the captives free” as Jesus would say.
Here’s to you St. Patrick. Here’s to you St. Janet. Here’s to you St. Brian. And Peter, and Ellen, and Lyndsay and …