Another St. Patrick’s Day is here and that means for most of America it’s time for another edition of the evening that runs second to New Year’s Eve as amateurs night for partying in the bars, this time with some green beer. I think it goes without saying that to the Catholic Church the holiday means something a little bit different — and if it does need saying, then please read the story of St. Patrick published here at CatholicMatch.
But is there a middle ground between all-out partying and being a killjoy? If anyone has found that balance it’s the Irish Catholic people, both here in America and in the homeland who have found the balance.
I recently had a confidant tell me about some friends of hers that were Irish and how much she enjoyed being around them because they seemed to have a grasp on perspective in life. There was a general acceptance of the fact that suffering and disappointments were a part of life, but rather than seeing that as a reason for depression or anger, they instead saw it as a reason to really take the time and enjoy a life built on faith, family and friends.
In my own life I’ve been uplifted by this light-hearted sense of piety many times. I’ve been fortunate enough to make several trips to Ireland to visit family, and that sense of easygoingness amidst life’s trials always shine through. The outlook is refreshingly clear of two extremes—one being the constant pressure we can put on ourselves to succeed in a worldly sense and to overstate life’s problems. The other being an almost Pollyannish denial of the reality of suffering. I’m not sure if living on the extremes is an American thing or just a “me” thing, but I can say that the closer I get to my Irish Catholic heritage and roots, the more the problem seems to disappear.
It’s all well and good to talk about a healthy light-hearted piety in a theoretical sense, but how do we bring it into our lives? Is there anything more contradictory than getting focused on being light? Or to get serious about relaxing?
While it may seem that way, there are concrete steps that can be taken, and single people are perhaps uniquely positioned to do just that. A couple that’s married, raising a family and dealing with all the stresses that come with it, might need someone to just drop in for a pleasant evening of fun and conversation.
That’s what I plan on doing today. After hitting the confessional box, I’m off to friends for corned beef, cabbage and the NCAA Tournament. I write as one who’s allowed the considerable stress of being in business for myself to overwhelm me in the last couple days. While my instincts are demanding that I keep pushing myself, an interior pull is there to just stop, relax and see St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to bring a healthier piety into my life, and perhaps it can spill out on those around me.
I’m sure you can find your own version of this day to have some fun with. It doesn’t require getting drunk. It doesn’t require going to the other extreme and hectoring people on the real meaning of St. Patrick’s life. It means just embracing life’s joys at the day-to-day level and accepting that the sufferings never really go away. Do that, and you’ve honored the Irish Catholic heritage St. Patrick helped build.