Of Feasts, Fasts, and Folly: Of St. Patrick’s Day and Lenten Penance

17 Mar

It’s ironic that St. Patrick’s Day is always in Lent. Our culture has adopted it as a secular holiday given over to green beer and benders, whereas observant Catholics mark the feast with prayers and continued penance – especially when it falls on a Friday.

But even then, Catholics can’t help but feel a slight lift in their spirits, and smiles are abundant. We’ll wear a touch of green or go all out with funny hats and buttons. We’ll affect an Irish accent, and even shout “Erin go bragh!” (despite not knowing exactly what it means).

On the surface, all this exuberance might seem out of place during a penitential season, but I imagine Patrick is grinning today in heaven. He knows, better than most, that it’s hard to be a somber Christian, for to be a Christian requires reveling in the extravagance of God.

Patrick himself enjoyed an abundance of grace despite untold suffering. Having escaped slavery on the Emerald Isle, he returned there as a missionary around the year 432 and set about proclaiming the Gospel to the pagans there. He encountered tremendous pushback, including physical assaults and constant persecution, yet he saw the Church firmly established before he died after decades of toil.

“I cannot be silent,” Patrick wrote, “about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed.” Following Patrick’s example, we too should be eager to speak up about our faith, for, regardless of our circumstances, we always have much to be grateful for.

So, wear your green hat today, but be ready to give an account of why you’re honoring the Apostle to the Irish. There’s no better way to mark his feast than adopting his missionary ways – especially with a smile.

A version of this meditation was originally disseminated by Redeemer Radio as a part of its “Lent Radio Challenge.”

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