Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

What a very beautiful Irish blessing.  St. Patrick's Day -- the day that even those of us who are 100% German become Irish.  A day to wear green -- or get pinched if you aren't wearing it!  Did you get pinched today?

I read a really neat story today about a young guy asking some others if they were going to "celebrate" St. Patrick's Day.  I was really struck by the honest, candid conversation these two guys had, when it all started with what one of them was probably saying matter-of-factly to all of his customers that day.  Read on:

An Irish Blessing

You never know who God is going to bring into your life. This past week I had an amazing experience of God while waiting for my dinner.
“Iced tea, please.” I requested with a genuine tone.
“You guys goin’ to get ripped on Friday?” the waiter asked me (and my friends).
“I’m sorry?” I asked a little confused and more than a little intrigued.
“You know, are you guys gonna get lit up to celebrate St. Patrick’s day this Friday?” he asked again, (obviously assuming that because we were young adults that binge drinking and public drunkenness must be our favorite past time…)
“Um…no.” I replied with a stern and disapproving but gentle, non-judgmental tone.
“Why not, are you guys like recovering alcoholics or something?” he pushed, searching for an answer as to why we would not choose to inebriate ourselves on the altar of public opinion or conformity.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Thomas” he replied.

“Thomas, I have to ask you a question. You obviously plan to get wasted on Friday to “celebrate”. Why is getting drunk necessary? I don’t want to sound prudish, but I just don’t understand why you consider that the ultimate sign of your freedom as a young adult?”
His facial expression showed how perplexed he was. His body language did little to disguise his defensiveness.
“What nationality are you?” he asked me (in an odd retort).
“I’m Irish and German.” I replied.
“Oh well, you see, I’m 100% Irish, so you wouldn’t understand. Drinking is a part of our heritage, and only being half Irish you wouldn’t understand the significance of St. Patty’s Day. It’s how our ancestors celebrated and it’s been passed down from generation to generation. Maybe the Irish in your family weren’t proud of their heritage, but my family is…” His attempt to justify his intention to binge drink was obvious, but his assault on our family pride in our heritage was unfounded and ignorant.
I had planned to let his comments go, but I could not…for he would undoubtedly spin the same inane dribble on another unsuspecting table later in the day, and he needed a little dose of reality.
“Hey Thomas, I don’t know how to break this to you, but getting hammered doesn’t demonstrate your freedom, it relinquishes it. Further, saying that your ancestors celebrated their Irish heritage by getting wasted is unfounded and a sad commentary about your family tree. Alcoholism, like any addiction, is not an exercise of freedom, it is an exercise of slavery. Ironically, the very slavery that your ancestors were probably fighting in Ireland prior to the arrival of St. Patrick.” His face went white. He was confused, upset and grew a little angry (but not too angry, because he was still working for a tip).
“Well, that’s your version, but I know my Irish history” he replied, clinging to the rationalization that would leave him drunken and guilt free.
“Oh, and Thomas, one more thing…St. Patrick wasn’t Irish…at all” I said with a gentle but assured humility.
That was it. You would have thought I pulled his still beating heart out of his Kelly-green covered chest and smashed right in front of his (no longer) “smiling” Irish eyes.
I would have been fine letting it go, but after his last comments, I felt the need to set straight my belligerent, well-intentioned new friend who was way long on ego and bit short on actual knowledge.
“St. Patrick was Welsh-Italian. Most agree, too, that there weren’t any actual snakes in the country. That is a myth. He wasn’t the first Christian missionary sent to Ireland, either, that was Saint Palladius. Lastly, St. Patrick is not only the patron saint of Ireland, but also of Nigeria. He spoke out against slavery, pagan worship and was a champion of women’s rights in a time when people treated them as objects (not unlike today). He stood for Jesus Christ, spoke out against pagan influences and the debaucherous lifestyles that were leading countless masses into sin – including drunkenness, idolatry, witchcraft, and sexual sins. In short, St. Patrick would be rolling over in his grave if he felt that millions every year ‘celebrated’ his life in the ways that you are suggesting we do.”
Thomas had nothing to say. He had forgotten his argument. He had forgotten his heritage. He had forgotten our order (it took forever to get our food).
“I understand that you like getting wasted and see it as the ultimate exercise of young freedom, I used to think that way, too. The reality, though, is that it’s a lie. Freedom is not ‘doing whatever you want’. Freedom is the capacity to love and to do what is right. Alcohol, like any drug, enslaves the human person. St. Patrick went to Ireland to free the slaves with the Gospel. Those temptations were the ‘snakes’ that were killing the masses. I don’t judge you, brother, and I don’t want to come off as ‘holier than thou’ or any of that garbage. I genuinely want you to know that. God has bigger plans for you than you do for yourself. Those plans will be hard to see and hear if you’re hiding behind a drunken stooper for the most formative years of your life. Do what you will do, and know that I’ll be praying for you this Friday. I pray that you choose wisely.”
Thomas disappeared to the kitchen. You could see he was thinking a great deal. You could tell that what started as small talk turned into far more. The conversation had done more than challenge his mind, the words we exchanged – two strangers that were now acquaintances, were challenging his heart.
Later on in the meal, when the check came, something unexpected happened. My new brother in Christ, Thomas, thanked me.
“I saw your crucifix. I’m assuming you’re Catholic. I was raised Catholic but I haven’t been to church in a long time, since I moved out of my parent’s house. No one has really talked to me like that since my grandma died. Where did you learn so much about the faith?” He inquired.
“Here and there” I replied. “Lemme give you a website.” (pointing him to
“I’m still going out on St. Patrick’s day, you know” he admitted.
“I figured” I replied with an appreciation for his honesty.
“Maybe I won’t drink too much” he offered.
“Maybe you won’t drink at all…” I urged with more belief in him than he has in himself.
“What is the point in that?” He asked.
“To celebrate the life of a man who put God’s will before his own wants, and the salvation of an entire nation ahead of his own bodily desires. Basically, to truly honor St. Patrick.” I suggested.
“What’s your name?” he asked me.
“Mark Joseph Hart” I replied. In fact, “Thomas” was my Confirmation name.
“What’s yours?” I asked back.

“Thomas Patrick…” he replied.
“Well Thomas, it was a pleasure. I’ll be praying that St. Patrick makes you uncomfortable this Friday.” I said jokingly.
“He already has…” Thomas replied honestly.
As we left and I headed to my car I had to grin. Over 1500 years later, St. Patrick’s life is still converting hearts. And in the middle of a restaurant, Thomas Patrick had an experience of God…Thomas (the doubter) is no match for Patrick (the snake charmer).
God is good.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


I'm struck, not only by the discussion they had, but even more so, how by the end of the meal, he had the waiter asking and talking about his faith.  That's a very difficult thing to do (ask any CCD teacher!) -- to get anyone, much less a young person, to talk about their faith.  I've run across a few in my life, but it is actually more the exception than the rule.

But isn't that part of our faith?  To spread our faith?  To talk about it?  I KNOW that the more I talk about it, and am open about it, I learn more.  Why?  Because people ask questions, and when I don't know the answer, I try to find out.  So I learn, too!  It's a win-win situation!  If only we took those opportunities more to open up to people -- it would be great!

I have someone near and dear to my heart (well, he isn't so near physically any more, and I hardly ever see him :( -- but when I first started working at the church, he was such a blessing to me.  He knew lots and lots and lots of stuff, which started a LOT of conversations....and really helped all of us out!  And today, he is the Assistant Director of Vocations for our Archdiocese!  Pretty impressive, huh?  I'm sure it's all due to me (not!).  LOLOLOL  But really, I'm really proud of him and who he has become.  He's recently started a blog of his own -- Learning 2 B Joseph ( -- BUT even better, he was recently published.  And I LOVE the title of his article!  :)  I am speaking of my friend, Wayne Topp.  Click the link below to read his recently published article.  I am sure it is the first of many.  You go, Wayne!  :)

Have a great evening, everyone.  Tomorrow is Friday!  Busy weekend ahead.  I am not sure how much posting you will see.  I do want to remind everyone to submit questions if you have them, and on Sunday we'll do an open line type thing.  "Be Not Afraid"!!!  :)


  1. Beautiful post Pam! This story reminds me of the song "Fifteen" by Greg Long. How many opportunities do we get to lead someone to Jesus and don't recognize it or don't want to look or sound stupid. Thanks again and God bless. And thanks for the tag to Wayne's blog and article - he's an amazing young man.

  2. I'm going to have to look that song up! Sounds very interesting! I know lots of opportunities get passed up by me, but I'm working on it :)

    You're welcome for the Wayne stuff. He's one of a kind, that's for sure (and in a great way!).

  3. I just listened to that song......I have heard it before, but forgot about it. I LOVE IT!!! Thanks for the reminder!