Amidst the noisy green fanfare and parades that surround the March 17 holiday, one Catholic priest has urged people to "put St. Patrick back in St. Patrick's Day."
"I'm not saying that you shouldn't fish around in your closet for your favorite Irish sweater on March 17; or that you shouldn't wear that shamrock tie you use only once a year," the Rev. James Martin, S.J. wrote on a blog posting in the Huffington Post.
"But do this: remember why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It's because of, well, St. Patrick."
Calling St. Patrick an "amazing guy," Martin writes that the saint "offers Christians important lessons about forgiveness and love. And he offers everyone else some lessons, too."
Recounting Patrick's self-penned experience of becoming a teenage slave in Ireland, and then returning later as a missionary, Martin says that "for the Christian, Patrick poses an important question: would you be willing to serve a place where you had known heartache? And how much is the Gospel worth to you?"
"For everyone, he offers a challenge: can you forgive the people who have wronged you? Could you even love them?" he adds.
In likening the secularization of St. Patrick's Day to that of Christmas, Martin says that "the stakes are decidedly lower: the Son of God versus a guy who supposedly drove the snakes out of Ireland. (And he didn't even do that, scholars say. There weren't any to begin with.)"
"But what is lost in both holidays is the same: the astonishing story that gave rise to the religious feast in the first place," he continues.
St. Patrick's "Confession" story was also honored in another internet posting from Benedictine monk Brother Colmán Ó Clabaigh, OSB, who said that the saint's account "shows us someone in whom the grace of God was powerfully active."
"The Lord habitually uses weak and fragile people to accomplish his will, to build up his kingdom: 'My grace is enough for you, my strength is made perfect in weakness,'" Ó Clabaigh wrote in The Catholic Spirit.com.
"Patrick himself recognized this; he was conscious of being 'rustic, exiled, unlearned,' of lacking the sophistication of other bishops. But more than this, he was conscious of the power of God working within him," he added.
Born in 387 in Romanized Great Britain, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and is attributed with helping to establish Christianity in the country in the fifth century.
Sent there as a missionary in 433, Patrick preached in Ireland for 40 years while building churches all over the country.
Saint Patrick's Day became an official Catholic feast day in the early 1600's and is widely celebrated around the world.