Saint Patrick was a gentleman
Who through strategy and stealth
Drove all the snakes from Ireland.
Here's a drinkee to his health!
But not too many drinkees
Lest we lose ourselves and then...
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see them snakes again!
It’s a fun rhyme. I like it because there is a sound spiritual principle embedded in it too. It reminds us that too often a good thing, if it is abused or partaken of to excess, can have unwanted or negative consequences. Sure and begorrah, there is nobody better than a drunken St. Patrick’s Day reveler to remind us of that.
That’s why I find it to be so fitting that St. Patrick’s Day always falls in the season of Lent. A day of celebration in the midst of a season of penance is a good juxtaposition. It reminds us that in order to know true joy and bliss we first must master our wild passions and drive out our snakes.
There is a pilgrimage site that I would love to visit someday. It is called “St. Patrick’s Purgatory” located on an island in Lough Derg in northwest Ireland. According to legend, Jesus appeared to St Patrick there and gave him a glimpse of purgatory. Since then people have flocked to the site to pray, to do penance, and to be purged of their sins.
It is a three-day retreat experience. Pilgrims are asked to remain barefoot for the entire stay. Then they begin a 24-hour non-stop prayer vigil. Only on the second day are they allowed to sleep. Each pilgrim is responsible for his neighbor, prodding him if he should happen to doze off.
A strict fast is observed – only one meal a day consisting of dry toast or oatcakes and weak tea or coffee. Mass is celebrated and, of course, the sacrament of Confession. Lough Derg is regarded as one of the most demanding pilgrimage sites in all of Europe. Still the site is almost always booked out for months ahead. People know deep inside. It’s worth anything we can endure to drive out those nasty snakes and to get our spirits right with God. That will bring more joy than any pot of gold.
So raise a toast and go green – but forget not the gentleman St. Patrick. Lose not your true selves and set your hearts on the glory that is promised.