Most of us haven't a clue as to who Patrick really was. As the green-clad marchers fill 5th Avenue it might be fun to take a closer look at the man they are supposedly honoring.
No, he wasn't Irish. He was the son of Roman citizens and was born and raised in Britain. Kidnapped by pirates, Patrick got his first views of Ireland from his role as a herdsman-slave there. After six grueling years in captivity, he escaped. Perhaps to foil his pursuers, he did not return to Britain, but went instead to Gaul.
An inner voice kept telling him that he should return to Ireland to bring the Christian message to those pagans, but Patrick at first resisted and then decided that this needed more preparation, so he spent the next 12 years studying for his mission.
He was 48 when he finally returned to the land of the Celts and set up headquarters near Tara. It was there that he defied the pagan priests by lighting the Easter fire on a nearby hill. This dramatic challenge to paganism met first with indignation and then respect at the court of the high king.
What a scene for a film!
Patrick's actions, born of his deep understand of where he was, observed the tribal boundaries and led him to find an accommodation between Christian practice and local laws. Ever an advocate of learning, he introduced the Roman alphabet. This was advanced thinking for the 5th century. Patrick's long years of study won him respect among the differently learned Celts.
Much of Patrick's story is lost in the mists of legend, but he is reputed to have had an unusually winning personality. Something certainly accounted for his extraordinary success as he strode across the green hills of this island.
For all of the above, I'll celebrate him on this day, but don't look for me at the parade. I doubt that, if he were alive, he would be there either. I doubt that he would stop to wet his whistle at a pub. I do think he would love to debate both politicians and some contemporary Christians!
Salutations, Patrick! You deserve so much more than will be evident in today's noisy celebrations.