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St. Patrick could have delayed his departure for a warmer month. Photo by: Illustration by Caty Bartholomew

St. Patrick picked the wrong day

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St. Patrick could have delayed his departure for a warmer month. Photo by: Illustration by Caty Bartholomew

Dear St. Patrick,

Greetings, dear patron saint, from the west coast of the island you loved so well in your own way all those centuries ago.

Greetings and respect from the heart and soul of one man sprung from the many generations whose culture and spirituality you changed so dramatically when you returned here, with such Christian fervor and indeed, bravery, back in the year 432 AD as far as I know.

I send you greetings, respect and awe even across all the centuries and dimensions and frequencies which some would think prevent any real communication between us.  I do not believe that.

I believe that the Afterworld which you revealed to us through your teachings and mighty missionary work through the island effectively proves that somehow, somewhere, in a fashion beyond my mortal ken, you will be aware that I am sending this message to you.

Can we have a chat? Maybe it is not so much a man to man chat as a man to saint chat.  No matter about that at all.

There are things I want to convey to you from your island in 2014 after the harshest and stormiest winter I can ever remember.  I venture the opinion, dear St. Patrick, that if this winter had come along when you were a slave shepherd on Slieve Mish in your youth that you would not have survived to escape and return in glory.

You would have frozen to death behind some mountain rock, and our history would have been very different indeed because the pagan gods and druids would probably still be in control of us.  Sometimes I feel they still have considerable clout even today!

Forgive me, O my mighty patron saint, if I have some criticisms of you. Please forgive me for these.

You see, I totally forgive you, from the bottom of my heart, for being the first Englishman to come to Ireland, centuries before the Normans for example, to totally shatter our then existing way of life and create a new system of governance and belief.

I forgive you for that, and much of the Christianity you introduced to the wild pagan Irish was positive and progressive. Thank you for that.

What I cannot forgive, though, is that despite your great saintly powers, you chose to depart from us for Paradise in the middle of the miserable month of March.  

I have always associated you with the penitential and ascetic flank of Christianity.  This is proven by the harsh reality to this day of St. Patrick’s Purgatory of barefoot fasting and praying for three days above in Donegal, and the equally punishing and even dangerous annual pilgrimage up the dangerous mountain of Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo.

You wished us to suffer for our faith, yes, but in my view the worst continuing penance imposed upon your children is the fact that your feast day falls on the 17th of March. There is no day in the entire year guaranteed to be so inclement and wicked and cold and wet and miserable as March 17.

That is a hard fact, dear patron saint, and I suspect you deliberately arranged it back in 461 AD when you left us behind for a better place up above. May the good Lord forgive you for that.

The wild joy with which we wish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day all over the world, but especially here at home and in the U.S., is lacerated and drenched and shattered every year by predictably appalling weather conditions during the parades and festivals.

I personally know of many older folk and children who caught double pneumonia and fevers from being caught out in the weather on St. Patrick’s Day, and you know better than I that many of them did not survive.

The predictably harsh weather on your day has always adversely affected tourism to your country.  That is a cruel reality.

Many visitors never return again after having been drenched and chilled to the bone at our parades and festivals. No wonder we need more than a few jars of the hard stuff that evening in order to survive.

With your great powers, why did you not choose to go to Heaven in the middle of June or even in the first week of May? It would have made such a difference to your children.  That, with respect, is what you should have done.
 
There is some strange friction which I do not understand at all surrounding a gay participation in some of the American parades. I would argue, using the word gay in the sense in which it was always understood for the most of my life, that it is scarcely possible at all to be truly gay on any freezing 17th of March.

Somehow, O patron saint, I am fully aware that you do not celebrate the 17th of March up in Heaven either. That is not in your nature at all.

If there is the equivalent of a singing pub or inn in Paradise, and there has to be a few of them, you are not at the bar. I see you sitting on the flank of the coldest mountain in Heaven, quite alone and silent and somber, and shaking your hoary old head with regret every time one of your children on either side of the Atlantic celebrates the wearing of the green with even one drink too many by your austere standards.

Forgive me please, but understand too, if I drink a toast to you on your day.  And if I do not subject myself to any parade in the rain and sleet. I am not as hardy as you must have been away back then.

Yours faithfully,
Cormac MacConnell, Ireland

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