Monday, March 13, 2017

Beannachtai Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Cover of an old prize-book,
St Patrick's College, Maynooth

The above is a very traditional representation of St Patrick. Every Sunday in St Mary's we gaze up at him in his bishop's robes in the stained-glass window above the altar, between St Brigid and St Colmcille. Next Friday is his day, then, and we (especially those called after him) will think of him in many different ways, each of us conjuring up our own images and associations. The fact that there are so many schools, colleges, hospitals (e.g. St Patrick's), streets (e.g. our own St Patrick's Crescent, Rathcoole) and even towns (e.g. Patrickswell) called after him shows just how deeply influenced Ireland has been by this British-born propagator of the faith who, back in Britain after six years' captivity in Ireland, heard as in a dream the haunting voice of the Irish calling him to come, this time voluntarily, and walk among them once more.

One lasting association for me. Many years ago, my wife and I found ourselves abroad (in London) on St Patrick's day. As it happened, evening drew on without our having done anything to mark the day, even (mea culpa, because of an all-day meeting for me) going to Mass. We decided to go to a production of Hamlet. It looked like the day was thus going to end on a Shakespearean note far removed from St Patrick and Ireland. The first act unrolls and scene five arrives. Hamlet sees his father's ghost and, after rejoining his friends, tries to conceal what has happened, while apologizing to Horatio for his mysteriousness. Horatio reassures him, saying, 'There's no offence, my lord' but Hamlet disagrees: 'Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio, / And much offence too.'  (The ghost has come from purgatory and the saint is invoked here because of his connection, known far and wide in medieval times, with St Patrick's Purgatory, Lough Derg, Co. Donegal.)

So, against all expectations and quite unintentionally, we did mark St Patrick's Day that year after all!

Please see the Newsletter 12.3 for times of Masses and details of the local parade.

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