THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH ABOUT ST. PATRICK’S DAY
by Todd Hartley
It’s St. Patrick’s Day today, and before I get drunk on green beer, I thought it might behoove me to learn something about the man in whose name I’ll be imbibing. Not that I care for Columbus Day, but at least I know what Columbus did. All I thought I knew about Patrick is that he chased the snakes out of Ireland, or something like that, which sounded pretty made-up.
So I looked the guy up, and guess what? It turns out we’ve been living a bunch of lies for all these years. Patrick, the man I thought was the patron saint of corned beef, cabbage and the color green, wasn’t actually named Patrick, and he wasn’t even Irish.
Patricius, as he referred to himself in his writings, was born in England, which was then part of the Roman Empire, some time around 400 A.D. He only wound up in Ireland because a bunch of stereotypically belligerent Irish dudes came over to ransack his parents’ estate and took him prisoner at the age of 16.
After that, Patrick was a slave in Ireland for more than six years, which makes his story a little like “Conan the Barbarian,” only with fewer muscles, a better grasp of the English language and less of a grudge against James Earl Jones.
Somehow, Patrick escaped from captivity at the age of 22, and he loved his new homeland so much that he immediately walked 200 miles from County Mayo to the ocean to leave Ireland behind and go back home. Then he spent the next 15 years in England and continental Europe, undergoing religious training. So if you’re keeping score, that’s six years in Ireland so far and 31 years elsewhere.
Patrick eventually returned to Ireland as a missionary, and a lot of people think he was the guy who first brought Christianity to the island, but that’s not true. There apparently already were some Christians there when he got back. Patrick just did a better job of selling Jesus to the Irish pagans, and he was largely responsible for setting them on the path to the interesting brand of Catholicism they practice today.
In time, Patrick would be named a bishop, and though scholars don’t seem to know the year of his death, somehow they’re all dead certain that he died March 17. So when you get drunk today, know that you’re actually celebrating the anniversary of his death, you sick bastards.
Now, you may have noticed in my recounting of Patrick’s life that there was no mention of snakes. I was a little surprised by that, too. But remember how I said the snake story seemed made up? It was. There was a legend that Patrick chased all Ireland’s snakes into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast, but the fossil record indicates that there were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with.
So with no snakes to banish, why, exactly, was Patrick canonized as a saint? Well, if you believe the legends, it’s partly because he used a shamrock, which is nothing more than a three-leaf clover, to explain Christianity’s holy trinity to the Irish. This doesn’t exactly strike me as a miracle, but it explains why McDonald’s serves mint green shakes once a year.
Another legend states that Patrick stuck a walking stick in the ground in one town, and the morons there took so long to figure out what he was trying to teach them that the walking stick took root and grew into a tree, but I think that’s probably made up, too.
Aside from being a good missionary, evidently Patrick’s big contribution to Christianity was that he came up with a couple of new ways to draw crosses. By this logic, we should canonize the person who came up with the Helvetica font.
I’m sorry. That was insensitive. I’m sure Patrick was a wonderful guy and did a lot of good things, and that’s why he’s the patron saint of Ireland. Whatever the reason, as far as national patron saints go, he’s one of the best, and I’m happy to hoist a pint in his honor.
To go with my quaff, I plan to eat cabbage for the only time this year. I’ll boil a potato or two, and yes, I’ll eat some corned beef. It turns out that neither corned beef nor cabbage nor potatoes are Irish in origin, but since Patrick wasn’t, either, I guess that makes it an appropriate meal.
Todd Hartley’s idiot baseball coach called him a “Mick” until Todd Hartley pointed out that he’s not Irish.