How I could have held my head high and called myself Irish when there’s so much that I didn’t know about St Patrick is beyond me.  I can’t explain this recent obsession with the man. Perhaps it’s a mid-life crisis of sorts. Never before was I so curious about him and yet despite all my research, I still have little more than a cup of tea and two biscuit’s worth of information. I started off being a tad embarrassed about my lack of knowledge, given that I’m Irish through and through, but in hindsight, I doubt very much that I’m the only Irish person with such a knowledge deficit.

IMG_3413 (600x800)I never knew, for instance, that St Patrick was the patron saint of paralegals and engineers. Or that his patronage extended not alone to Ireland but also to Nigeria and Montserrat. I had never heard that it took him so long to drum the religion into us that the walking stick he had stuck in the ground took root and grew into a tree. And while I am familiar with the wearing of shamrock and perhaps a harp on St Patrick’s Day, I’d never heard of the two St Patrick’s crosses.

For years I’ve been trying to persuade people that the shamrock is not a clover only to find that for years I’ve been wrong. The name shamrock comes from the Irish seamróg, which is the diminutive version of the Irish word for clover, meaning ‘little clover’. Another bubble burst… the embarrassment.

Despite being known the world over as St Patrick, Patrick was never formally canonised by a pope. And I never knew that when he died there was a fight to see who’d get the body – the Battle for the Body of St Patrick went over my head. Or that when he was buried he was watched over for 12 days and nights, or more like 12 long days as night never came – it was daylight the entire time.

IMG_3396 (800x599) (800x599)The first St Patrick’s Day parade was in New York back in the 1762 when some Irish soldiers serving with the British Army apparently marched across the city to a pub in Manhattan. Funny … the first one in Budapest was in 2011 and we ended up Jack Doyle’s Irish Pub and Restaurant.  mmmm… maybe it’s all finally beginning to make sense.

At the end of what has been another hectic week, I’m grateful for the fact  I have retained enough Irish to be able to wish the blessings of St Patrick’s Day on you all. Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir. Wherever you are tomorrow, how ever you’re celebrating, know that I’ll be with ye in spirit. And if you’re in Budapest – mine’s a Jameson and ginger!

Someone told me a while back that people die twice. Once when they physically expire and again when their name is spoken for the last time. St Patrick has been dead for centuries and there’s little danger that he’ll ever be forgotten. St Patrick’s Day itself has become a global phenomenon that seems to gather strength each year and shows little sign of abating.

Being Irish, as I admitted earlier this week, doesn’t make you an expert on the man or his life. And this is particularly true in my case. It was only in December that I visited his grave for the first time – and what a shock it was to see that he’s not buried alone.
IMG_9473 (800x600)He lies in the grounds of the magnificent Down Cathedral in Downpatrick,   a Church of Ireland cathedral built in 1183 on the site of a Benedictine Monastery. When I realised it wasn’t a Catholic Cathedral I had to stop and question my belief that St Patrick was Catholic… just because he’s a saint.

Some say he wasn’t. but proving it, according to James Aiken in his article Was St Patrick Catholic ‘[…] is an impossible task, as Patrick was a Latin-speaking Roman noble, grandson of a Catholic priest, son of a minor official of the Roman empire, who had repeated private revelations, practiced penance, spent two decades as a monk, was ordained a priest and sent to serve on the papal mission to Ireland, was then ordained bishop by a papal representative, and had his fidelity to Catholic teaching specially confirmed by Pope Leo the Great (of whom the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon cried “Peter has spoken through Leo!”). He described himself as a Catholic, and a list of canons he drew up for the Irish church orders that any dispute not resolved on a local level was to be forwarded to Rome for decision.’ Enough said.

The reason I questioned it is that I’ve grown up hearing how St Patrick converted Ireland to Christianity – not that he made Catholics of us all. And I’m still none the wiser.

IMG_9468 (800x600)But back to him not being buried alone. Apparently there was a prophecy that he’d be buried with St Brigid and St Colomcille, a prophecy which, according the engraving, John De Courcy fulfilled in the twelfth century. Given that he supposedly died back in the fifth century, I’m left wondering where he was in the meantime. In fact, the more I read, the more confused I get. There is even a theory of two Patricks!

IMG_9467 (800x600)Whoever he was or wasn’t, whatever he did or didn’t do, what St Patrick is doing today is what’s important for me. There an immense pride to be taken in being Irish (or there was, before the progeny of the Celtic Tiger years began to worry the threads of the Irish reputation abroad). For me, to see Irishness celebrated around the world is an amazing thing. I used to think it was cheesy and a little naff, but since coming to Budapest and being involved in the revelry and seeing the genuine affinity Hungarians have for all things Irish, it’s nearly enough to bring a tear to this occasionally jaundiced eye.

For more details of what’s happening, check out the Irish Embassy’s Facebook page (and like it while you’re at it) or see the Irish Hungarian Business Circle’s website for a calendar of events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quare things have been known to happen in Ireland, especially on the long walk home from the pub after a feed of pints and extra vinegar on yer chips. The year 1985 will probably stand out as one of the strangest of all. In Ballinspittle, Co. Cork, a statue of Our Lady in a grotto, moved. And in moving drew crowds from around the country who came in their droves to witness the miracle. And she wasn’t the only one moving, or weeping, or bleeding. Over 30 cases were reported in the summer of 1985, all, interestingly, from Ireland. None from Northern Island. Read more