land. Patrick’s own writings, and the writings of his contemporaries, show him to have been a missionary of extraordinary zeal, energy, and courage, careless of his own safety in his fervor to `spread the nets for God’. In his own writings, he mentions this `divine impatience’ as well as describing himself as one of the Irish. For 29 years, Patrick labored among his beloved Irish, converting and baptizing them by the thousands until his death on March 17, 461 AD. Tradition establishes that he was buried at Downpatrick where he shares the same grave with Saints Bridget and Columcille who were later interred with him to protect their remains from Viking raiders. He was recognized as a saint in the 17th century by the extension of his feast day to the universal Church calendar.
However, by all accounts, the most momentous part of his legacy is the form of Christianity he left in Ireland for it inspired a life of sacrifice for the sins of man. That sacrifice, which became known as ‘white martyrdom’ included prayerful solitude, fasting, tedious transcription of sacred documents, abstinence from worldly pleasures which to some meant dressing in coarse garments and sleeping on hard beds with stone pillows, and most importantly, missionary activity. It was this devotion which led to Ireland becoming the Isle of Saints and Scholars, the University of Europe and the Lamp of the West; and it was his fervor to spread the nets for God that led future generations of Irish monks to travel the continent as missionaries, bringing the light of learning back into the abyss after the Dark Ages and saving civilization.
This then is the man – the Saint – that we honor in March, and it our duty to see that nothing but praise and reverence are attached to his name. We may celebrate his memory with joy, but remember his love for the Irish, the tremendous gift of faith that he bestowed upon us and the inspiration he provided which benefitted civilization, and celebrate with reverent joy. We can begin by replacing all references to Paddy’s Day with the proper name of Saint Patrick’s Day for the difference between Paddy’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day is the same as the difference between the office Christmas Party and Midnight Mass.