On St. Paddy and St. Joe

Guido Reni - St Joseph with the Infant Jesus - WGA19304.jpg

Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus…”

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We have two Feast Days coming up.  One is major and one is minor.  But the “minor” festival is the far better-known of the two.  (And celebrated more, usually with lots o’ beer…)

That is, March 19, 2015, is the Feast Day for St. Joseph.  That’s the Major Feast Day coming up, but it’s way overshadowed by St. Patrick’s Day, today, March 17.   I figure there’s some kind of object lesson in all of this, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

According to Apostles, Major Saints and Feast Days, St. Joseph is third on the list of important figures who have Feast days.  (He comes in third only to Christ the King and Mary.)  St. Patrick on the other hand didn’t even make that list.  But again, his Feast Day far overshadows that of “St. Joe.”  (Who might be called at least the lesser of the two father figures of Jesus:)

Christian tradition places Joseph as Jesus‘ foster father [but] represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of her son.  Joseph is not mentioned [at] the Wedding at Cana at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, nor at the Passion at the end.  If he had been present at the Crucifixion, he would under Jewish custom have been expected to take charge of Jesus’ body, but this role is instead performed by Joseph of Arimathea.  Nor would Jesus have entrusted his mother to the care of John the Apostle if her husband was alive.   (E.A.)

Saint Joseph – Wikipedia, which added that Joseph is venerated as a saint by many, including the CatholicAnglican, and Methodist faiths.  In some traditions he is the patron saint of workers.  And, with “the growth of Mariology, the theological field of Josephology has also grown and since the 1950s centres for studying it have been formed.”

See also St. Joseph – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online, which added that he is also patron saint of the dying.”  That’s because, “assuming he died before Jesus’ public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.”  And finally, this:

The Bible pays Joseph the highest compliment: he was a “just” man…   By saying Joseph was “just,” the Bible means that he was one who was completely open to all that God wanted to do for him. He became holy by opening himself totally to God.

That’s from St. Joseph, Husband of Mary | Saint of the Day.  (And points the way for all of us.)

The full readings for the Feast Day can be found at St. Joseph.  They are:  2 Samuel 7:4,8-16, Psalm 89 (or portions thereof), Romans 4:13-18, and Luke 2:41-52.

Now about St. Patrick.  We don’t know when he was born, but he is said to have died on March 17, now celebrated as his Feast Day.  In Irish his name would be Padraig.  That’s often shortened to “Paddy,” and is seen as a derogatory term for Irish men.  See Saint Patrick – Wikipedia, and also The Free Dictionary.   That in turn  gave rise to the “Paddy wagon:”

The name came from the New York Draft riots of 1863.  The Irish at the time were the poorest people in the city.  When the draft was implemented it had a provision for wealthier people to buy a waiver.  The Irish rioted, and the term Paddy wagon was coined.

Urban Dictionary: paddy wagon, about the “police vehicle used to transport prisoners.”

But we digress!!!

According to legend, St. Patrick was born in Britain but at 16 was captured by Irish pirates.  He was taken as a slave back to Ireland, and lived there for six years before escaping.   He got back to his family, then studied became a cleric, and in the fullness of time returned to Ireland.

Legend further says Patrick used the native shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity to the Irish.  And finally, legend says Patrick “banished all snakes from Ireland,” though there’s debate whether snakes were there in the first place.  An alternate theory: the “snakes” referred to the “serpent symbolism of the Druids.” (Wikipedia.)

See also St. Patrick | Saint of the Day | AmericanCatholic.org:

He suffered much opposition from pagan druids and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission.  In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe. (E.A.)

See also, How the Irish Saved Civilization.  That book argued that the Irish played a “critical role in preserving Western Civilization from utter destruction by the Huns and the Germanic tribes” after the Roman Empire collapsed.  (Those Germanic tribes included Angles and Saxons and Jutes Oh my!)   The book told the story of the “pivotal role” played by members of the Irish clergy in preserving Western civilization, with a “particular focus” on St. Patrick.

How the Irish Saved Civilization.jpgOr as Kenneth Clark put it, “In so far as we are the heirs of Greece and Rome” – after the collapse of the Roman Empire about 500 A.D. – “we got through by the skin of our teeth.”  We were saved in large part by a “group of monks huddled off the coast of Ireland.”

(There they were safe from the rampaging Vandals, Huns and other barbarians from the east.)

Now about that celebration.  See How America Invented St. Patrick’s Day | TIME, which began:   “Immigration and nativism transformed a quiet religious celebration into a day of raucous parades and shamrock shakes.”  That transformation began in America.

In Ireland – up until about 1904 – March 17 was a “quiet day with no parades or public events.”

The first recorded public American celebration came in Boston in 1737.  Around 1766, Irish soldiers in the British Army stationed in New York started holding a parade to honor “the Irish saint” that day.  Then came the end of the Civil War and more and more Irish immigrants:

Facing nativist detractors who characterized them as drunken, violent, criminalized, and diseased, Irish-Americans were looking for ways to display their civic pride and the strength of their identity…    Irish-Americans celebrated their Catholicism and patron saint … but they also stressed their patriotic belief in their new home.  In essence, St. Patrick’s Day was a public declaration of a hybrid identity [including] a strict adherence to the values and liberties that the U.S. offered them.

(See also Anti-Irish sentiment – Wikipedia.) By the 1890s, St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated not only in cities with large Irish populations; Boston, Chicago, and New York. It was also celebrated in cities like New Orleans, San Francisco, and Savannah. The tradition “grew across the U.S. and became a day that was also celebrated by people with no Irish heritage.  By the 20th century, it was so ubiquitous that St. Patrick’s Day became a marketing bonanza.”  (There’s probably a lesson there too…)

The TIME article ended with this:

The holiday also spread by becoming a means for all Americans to become Irish for the day. The shared sense of being Irish, of wearing green and in some way marking March 17, has resulted in St. Patrick’s Day being observed in a similar fashion to July Fourth or Halloween.  It’s the closest thing in America to National Immigrant Day, a tribute not only to the Irish, but to the idea that Americans are all part “other.” (E.A.)

See also St. Patrick’s Day – Facts, Pictures, Meaning & Videos, and St Patrick’s Day 2015: From London to Uganda – the 10 best Irish pubs outside Ireland.  (An FYI:  the list of best Irish pubs includes The Irish Haven in Brooklyn and Finn McCool’s Irish Pub in New Orleans.)

So Here’s to You, St. Joseph, patron saint of all workers and of the dying.

And Here’s to You, St. Patrick, who – among other things – helped to save Western Civilization from those barbarians, including the Angles and Saxons and Jutes.  (Oh my!)

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The upper image is courtesy of Saint Joseph – Wikipedia, which also noted that the “Pauline epistles make no reference to Jesus’ father; nor does the Gospel of Mark.”  The caption for the painting:  “Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (c. 1635).”

The lower image is St. Joseph and the Christ Child, courtesy of El Greco – WikiArt.org.  See also, On art history: El Greco’s Sensibility: A Painting of Saint Joseph:

Saint Joseph and Christ Child [the one by El Greco] is one of the first Western paintings in which Saint Joseph is the principal protagonist.  We see his enormous figure in the first plan, shown as a walker, and as a figure of trust and protection to the Child Jesus, who embraces the waist of His Father.  [He is] presented as a young man with a crook in his right hand, shows his paternal love toward Jesus, and is crowned by the three [angels] in the [upper] part of the painting.  These angels in full movement bear lilies, which symbolize the purity, and laurel and roses, symbols of triumph and love respectively.  Here we see that the agitated postures of the angels contrast the calmness of the group of St. Joseph and the Infant Christ.  Behind them, a view of Toledo is included.

Re:  the “skin of our teeth,” and/or the Irish saving Western civilization.  See  Civilisation (TV series) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and CIVILIZATION by KENNETH CLARK – Culturism.

One final note, the phrase Here’s to You is generally translated, Bottoms Up, “an expression said as a toast when people are drinking together.”  

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