Saturday, March 17, 2007

How St. Patty Drove Out the Snakes

Last Saturday was the big St. Patrick's Day parade in nearby Scranton. It's touted as the "third largest St. Patrick's parade in the country." There are some who believe it's held a week earlier than the actual holiday so that people can get intoxicated two weekends in a row.

Nobody we know is neutral about the parade. With a small Jesuit college near the parade route, there's no telling what you might see. Two years ago, three undergrads wandered down the middle of Mulberry Street. Shirtless, they were insulated in green body paint. One was swigging from a gallon milk jug that he had loaded full of stout. It was only 8:45 in the morning.

The local Irish Christians don't seem embarrassed by any of this, even though there is nothing in the stories of St. Patrick to authorize it. The ancient saint was abducted by pirates (probably with their own snouts full of stout). Taken to Ireland against his will, Patrick escaped six years later and returned home.

Then he experienced a call from God to return to Ireland and preach the Gospel. Ever thankful to God for his previous escape, he followed orders and did just that. The legend is that he drove out the snakes off of Ireland by preaching the Gospel to them. Who am I to argue with that?

Each year I am concerned about the local alcohol abuse in mid-March. While tavern owners in a Rust Belt city argue that it's good for business, it is a waste of perfectly good brain cells.

Not only that: I thought that Irish Christians were generally more serious about keeping a holy season of Lent. Given the current practice, the only repentance seems to take place on the morning after. And it lasts for only fifty-one weeks. Or less.

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