LAURINBURG – Father Ja Van Saxon said there is nothing wrong with a bit of green beer and revelry but points out that St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day for Catholic and Irish communities.
Saxon is the priest at St. Mary Catholic Church and knows that for many it is a day of “celebrating with food and drink and festivities,” but for the church it is a holy feast.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 because it believed to be the anniversary of the saint’s death in 461 AD.
Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and Nigeria, but the Irish have marked his feast day for over, 1000 years.
St. Patrick was born in Roman controlled Brittan, possibly Wales, according to Saxon.
“People don’t know this; they think he was Irish, but he was actually British,” Saxon said.
Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped and returned to Brittan. After becoming a priest, he went back to Ireland to bring the word of God to the Celtic people there.
The Catholic Church honors his dedication and example.
“The church holds a special mass to the glory of God in his honor,” Saxon said. “He is held up as an example of holiness, Christian living and following after God with his whole heart.”
Saxon will conduct a St. Patrick’s mass at 9 a.m. today at St. Mary Catholic Church at 800 South Main Street and will hold another service at St. Elizabeth of Hungary at 6199 Fayetteville Road, Raeford.
Saxon said that it is likely Patrick did not go through the same canonization process as a modern saint like Mother Teresa because those procedures did not exist long ago.
“It’s likely he was recommended and revered by people after becoming a Bishop,” Saxon said.
St. Patrick is known for using the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity. He used the plant’s three leaves to represent the father, son and Holy Spirit and noted that the leaves were all part of the whole plant, like the Trinity.
He is also said to have driven snakes out of Ireland. According to the myth Patrick undertook a 40-day fast on a hill and was plagued by snakes. He drove those and all other snakes on the island into the sea.
Patrick is best known for his Confessio – or written confession of faith and the St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a prayer attributed to him, according to Saxon. One passage of the prayer reads, “I arise today, through the strength of heaven, the light of the sun, the radiance of the moon, the splendor of fire, the speed of lightning, the swiftness of wind, the depth of the sea, the stability of the earth, the firmness of rock.”
Although the feast day falls during the Lenten Season, Saxon said the church lifts prohibitions on eating meat so that Catholics can enjoy the traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage.
The true traditional meal is Irish bacon − much like Canadian bacon − or lamb and cabbage, but early Irish immigrants to New York were better off financially than they had been in Ireland and began to buy corned beef from Jewish-Kosher butchers. And so the American tradition of corned beef and cabbage evolved, according to the Smithsonian Institute website.
The first parade to mark St. Patrick’s Day was held in America, not Ireland. In 1762, Irish soldiers in the British army marched through New York City playing traditional Irish music to connect to other Irish immigrants and their culture.
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by non-Catholic and non-Irish people throughout America and around the world.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169