Friday, March 16, 2012

The Wearin' O' the Green

What do you think when I say "Ireland"?

True love...
Brave warriors...
The Emerald Isle...

But what do you think of when I say "St. Patrick's Day"?

Lucky Shamrocks...
Pots of Gold...

Isn't that sad?

O Paddy dear, and did ye hear the news that's goin' round?
The shamrock is by law forbid to grow on Irish ground!
No more Saint Patrick's Day we'll keep, his color can't be seen
For there's a cruel law ag'in the Wearin' o' the Green."

Irish history has sunk to a couple of pints, and the author of that song probably went to the tavern to drown his griefs after finishing the last word. (Sorry. A bit of personal interpretation there.)

The True Importance of St. Patrick's Day

But the Irish blood runs in me veins, and I'd like to set a couple of things straight. I'd like to tell you a story, which will lead into my book review.

Once upon a time, a boy lived near Kilpatrick, in Scotland, in the year 387.  His parents were Romans, and he lived under their roof until the age of 14 or 15, when cruel raiders swept down upon the land and stole him away to serve a people of Druids and pagans. He lived as a sheepherder for six years among this people, learning their language and their customs. He wrote of his relationship with Jesus Christ during his captivity. "The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same." This boy had a dream, in which God told him to leave Ireland by taking passage on a ship at the coast. After a brief recapture and near starvation, he succeeded in his escape and reunited with his family. He studied for the priesthood, and in his heart, felt the call of the Lord to return to the Irish people and bring them the good news of Jesus Christ. In spite of past pain and past scars, he obeyed.  Constantly in danger of martyrdom, he labored among the Irish people for forty years until his death on March 17, 461, at Saul, where he built his first church.

You all know the man.

St. Patrick.

Continue on to the year 521 A.D., when a baby boy was born to a tribal chieftain, and given two names. One meant 'wolf', the other meant 'dove'. He was destined to fulfill both names in his lifetime. This boy descended from royal blood, and could have become king, had he not chosen to study for the priesthood. He studied with 3,000 other students at Clonard Abbey, under St. Finian, and became one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Succeeding in his ordination as priest, he founded several monasteries and his reputation grew. But then something went wrong.

Finnian of Clonard possessed a copy of the Scriptures, a sign of great wealth. He refused to let Columba copy it, and the student went behind his back to copy it in the dead of night. When Finnian discovered his treachery, he took Columba before the king, Diarmit; and the king ruled that Columba should return to Finnian the copy of the Scriptures.

And Columba allowed a sprout of bitterness to grow up in his soul.

When Diarmit violated monastic security to capture and execute one of Columba's kinsmen, the priest called together his clan to do battle. As the war raged, he knelt in prayer for the victory of his men, with frightening success. The Ui Niell carried the day. Columba now stood in a position to claim kingship at the cost of 3,000 souls.

Condemned by religious and secular authorities, perhaps grief-stricken in his own conscience, Columba accepted the penalty of exile to Scotland, and swore to bring 3,000 souls to Christ--the number of men whose deaths he caused.

With twelve men, he left for the tiny island Iona. But in his soul, he grieved at leaving his native Ireland.

Book Review
To follow more of Columba's story, I direct you to today's book review: The Saints of Ireland, by Hugh de Blacam. (Also known as Aodh de Blacam). This book is older, and harder to find, but well worth the reading for an overview of two important Irish missionaries. De Blacam enthusiastically sets forth the lives of St. Columba, or Columcille, and St. Brigid, a woman missionary to Scotland.
The account of their calling, their ministry, and their miracles brings a whole new meaning to St. Patrick's Day--because these people are an offshoot of his ministry. Due to his ministry in Ireland, he raised up a generation of Christians to evangelize his own native Scotland.
Hugh de Blacam gushes occasionally over the greatness of these people; perhaps because of their connection to Roman Catholicism. I had to smile when he spent two or three pages mourning the common mispronunciation of St. Brigid's name, and deploring the nicknames 'Patty' and 'Biddy' as disrespectful to two of Scotland's greatest saints. But I didn't find it irksome, and it was helpful, as I had pronounced Brigid's name totally wrong up to that point.
I don't think you'll find the account of St. Columba's battle in this book, or if you do it is marginalized as much as possible. Saints, after all, are supposed to be perfect, and historians dispute certain facts of Columcille's life, not knowing whether they are factual or legendary. I don't pretend to know. But I like the account of the battle, and I also enjoy some other legends surrounding Columcille's life and death, including an account of the Loch Ness monster. (You can find the legends of Columcille's life in Life of St. Columba by Adomnan of Iona. I've not read the entire book, but I include it based upon a high recommendation.)
Whatever is fact, whatever is legendary, this man's ministry came as a result of St. Patrick's obedience to the call of God, and his forgiveness to those who enslaved him. The story of their lives, however faulty, however hyped, portrays quite clearly the forgiveness and redemption of Jesus Christ. We have a call just as they do, to go forth and make disciples of all nations--no matter our past pain, as in the case of Patrick; or our past sins, as in the case of Columba. Thank God that through Jesus Christ we are free from the chains that others try to bind us with, or that we fasten on ourselves.

And that, my friends, is the true message of St. Patrick's Day.

Irish Music
For those of you who came for the book review, it is now finished. But I couldn't resist including a couple of further resources.
Some of my favorite music is of the passion of the Irish. No-one can express the true live-and-die loyalty like the Celtic clans, and I am proud to claim my heritage. I encourage you to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by purchasing the following MP3 downloads:

Songs From Ireland

Charlie Zahm's mix of authentic and original tunes beautifully expresses the loyalty, love, and virtue of the Celtic people.


Deborah Brinson combines her lovely voice with the sound of the harp in singing many Irish melodies that are overlooked by other performers. Buy the entire album; I guarantee satisfaction.

It's time to reclaim the stereotypical Irishman from his pots of gold and pints of beer, and show the rich history that he really possesses.

Thank-you for joining me. I had a good time. :)

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Really nice post! I highly recommend Charlie Zahm's song OLD IRELAND. Just don't listen to it before going to bed. I've spent many a sleepless night with that tune running in my head. :)

  2. Wow--great post!

    I never knew much about St. Patrick's or St. Columba's lives until studying through world history again with my children. I've always loved the stories and history from the emerald Isle and the U.K., but having read more about them since, I've come to realize how rich the history is and what a spiritual legacy comes from that region as well.

  3. I just realized you did a post talking about Columba and Ireland...someday we should carve out a chunk of time for that project we had talked about....
    You should do another Irish post sometime! ; )

    1. Oh, I didn't know if you still remembered that or not! :D Indeed we shall! I have it all saved away in my mental files....



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