Growing up in Ireland, Diarmuid Martin saw St. Patrick's Day as not much more than a national holiday. But while studying abroad in Rome, he realized the 17th of March sparked incredible passion worldwide.
"I went to live abroad when I was 23 and…I went to a party in the American embassy in the Vatican," the 67-year-old Martin recalled. "To my great embarrassment, I found I was the only one not wearing green."
Now the archbishop of Dublin, Martin said he hopes all the energy about Ireland abroad can be harnessed to help lift the Irish economy.
"We have to move away from sentimental Irishism abroad," the archbishop said in a briefing Friday with nine American journalists.
"Ireland needs things -- the right things-- it needs investments," he continued. "It doesn't need emotionalism. That's the way we should be looking at the celebration of St. Patrick's Day as a national day."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny shared a similar message in New York on Saturday at a breakfast event with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Your support has been invaluable in our drive for economic recovery,” Kenny told an American audience.
Investment by American companies in Ireland has increased 25 percent during the last five years, to $188 billion, the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland said last month. And Kenny said Saturday that Irish exports to the U.S. rose 16 percent last year.
On Tuesday, Kenny will meet with President Barack Obama and offer him a bowl of shamrock.
Archbishop Martin said the 61-year-old tradition was one of the key ways St. Patrick's Day is celebrated.
"What goes around the shamrock is very important -- that is getting jobs and investment for Ireland," Martin said.
To be sure, Martin said the religious side of the day should be remembered as well.
"St. Patrick knit faith and culture in a very special way in the matter in which interacted in Ireland," he said. "We need a bit of that."
** Paresh Dave, Executive Director, Neon Tommy University of Southern California '13 Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism