There are is a lot of folklore about St. Patrick. He did not chase all of the snakes from Ireland. He did not lead the defeat against the Druids. It is more than likely that the story of him using a shamrock to teach people about the Trinity is an invention of much later Christians. He probably did not single highhandedly convert droves of Irish folks to Christianity. There were more than likely Christians in Ireland by the time Patrick arrived there as a priest.
But he was a captive herdsman in Ireland who escaped. And he did return as a priest. He did do a lot to increase the spread of Christianity across Ireland in the mid 400’s. He is said to have died on March 17, 461.
Before St. Patrick’s Day was an official holiday in Ireland (or anywhere else) it was a Feast Day in the church. Feast days are special days when people remember a Saint and go to church. Till this day, when Saint Patrick’s Day takes place during Holy Week, it is commemorated on a different day.
In seminary I always felt kinda funny, guilty really, about having a party and drinking Jameson and stout in the middle of Lent. In truth, I drank too much. I wasn’t alone. And I wasn’t without a hundred external stressors to pin the “blame” on. There were midterms and finals, paper deadlines, internships and sermons to write. My ex-wife and I had both kids during this busy season. I had bariatric surgery, shortly before my daughter was born… my first semester. I have spent too much of my life escaping my anxiety and fears with alcohol, food, cigarettes and any form of mindless escape that presented itself.
But the guilt, the guilt has been equally – if not more – soul crushing. Guilt has kept me locked in a prison of anxiety and fear far too much of my life. For me it was always cloaked in the religious language of “conviction” and “repentance.” But repentance literally means to turn – about face – from a destructive behavior. Guilt only serves to keep one locked in a sick cycle: rinse wash and repeat. If the definition of insanity is truly “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” then guilt is the very essence of insanity.
Guilt has pervaded my life and more often than not crippled me emotionally, mentally and spiritually (whatever the hell that means). I am striving to become…
I want to become a man of temperance. I want to become a man who can genuinely rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I want to become a person who is able to let people in. I want to be able to say I am sorry, and I forgive you and I love you with no strings attached. I feel like I am beating a dead horse at this point. We cannot love others well unless we love ourselves. But I will say it until I can live it.
Tonight I am having a low-key St Pat’s celebration with Amanda. We are sipping whiskey. Amanda scored a 4 pack of this season’s KBS. We are watching Entourage. No big parties. No guilt. No shame. I wish I could say no fear. But real life is scary. I have bills. I have creditors that are relentless. I pay $600 a month for insurance that won’t cover my medical bills until I meet my $1,300 deductible.
But my life is rich with people who love me: My children, Amanda, a few close friends I don’t call or text enough, and some amazing like minded folks in the artistic community who really care. I want to praise them all! I want to give thanks for each and every person that has hung in there with me. I want to lift their fragile hearts high with all of my might, like an ancient giving thanks for fire, like a villager giving thanks for the harvest. And as anti-intuitive as it may be to me, this means I must first hold my own calloused, yet fragile heart high and be able to truly say: I’m sorry for keeping you locked in fear. I forgive you for leading me down some broken paths. And… I love you. I raise this glass to me. Don’t get wasted. And don’t be prudish. Just enjoy this night. It is after all a Feast Day! Happy St Patrick’s Day!