Value Speak: The real St. Patrick's Day

Published: Friday, March 14 2014 4:48 p.m. MDT

St. Patrick figurines sit in display at Mancuso's, a store specializing in religious goods, gifts and books, March 10, 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and snakebites. The shamrock, a common symbol associated with St. Patrick's day, symbolizes the Holy Trinity.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News archives

According to legend, St. Patrick's greatest claim to fame was being charismatic enough to charm all of Ireland's snakes off of the Emerald Isle and into the sea where they drowned.

I love that legend. Of course, I love any story that results in fewer snakes — legendary or otherwise. But I can't help but wonder how Patrick himself would feel about the legend, and the way his life and legacy are celebrated every St. Patrick's Day.

Take, for example, those "Kiss me, I'm Irish" buttons. While Patrick would probably appreciate the gesture — especially the kissing part — he would be the first to point out that he wasn't actually Irish. He was native-born British who was captured by pirates and sold as a slave in Ireland. After six years of slavery, he managed to escape Ireland and return to his home in Britain. Rather than being filled with bitterness and resentment toward the Irish, however, he was consumed by the idea of returning to Ireland to convert his captors to Christianity.

Somehow, "Baptize me, I'm British" doesn't have the same jovial ring, does it?

St. Patrick's Day today is also a big day for visiting your favorite pub and hoisting a few while singing Irish folk songs. Now, I don't know how much time Patrick spent in the Irish pubs of his time, but I'm pretty sure he spent a lot more time in church. He founded more than 300 churches during his ministry in Ireland and baptized more than 120,000 converts.

Tradition has it that the use of the shamrock as Ireland's national symbol was born when he used one as a visual aid to teach the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity (you didn’t know that those magically delicious green marshmallow clovers in your morning bowl of Lucky Charms had theological significance, did you?).

So if we're really going to celebrate St. Patrick and what he was about we should probably do it in church, perhaps while reading his autobiographical "Confession," in which Patrick chronicled his spiritual journey through life. But I suspect that has about as much chance of happening as Mother O’Brien serving her corned beef sans cabbage March 17.

Or Notre Dame changing its mascot from the Fightin' Irish to the Baptizin' British.

All of which makes me wonder: What if I were to be canonized some day? Hey, it could happen. How would people appropriately celebrate Saint Joseph's Day? Would it be a day to do good deeds, to say kind things and to make the world a better place in which to live? Or would it be a day to ignore your wife, swear at the computer and watch TV while complaining that the world is going to heck in a handbasket?

I'm not going to answer that. At least, not right now. Thankfully, I've still got time to make my life more worthy of celebration — if not by the masses, at least by those who live around me.

But what about you? What if you knew there was someday going to be a St. Mel’s Day, or a St. Annette’s Day, or a St. Carolyn's Day? How would you want it to be observed? Would you want the world to celebrate your life as it is or would you like to do a little fine tuning before the celebration begins?

That's a decision we must each make for ourselves. Are our lives going to be insignificant or are they going to be legendary? Are we going to get by or are we going to get going? Are we just going to sit there or are we going to stand for something?

The choice is ours, every day of our lives.

I just have one request: If you choose to do something with your life, would you please try to include something about snakes? I'll celebrate anything that results in fewer snakes.

Legendary or otherwise.

To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com. Twitter: JoeWalkerSr

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