March 17th is a day that everyone claims Irish heritage, whether they are Irish or not. Many people celebrate the day by wearing green and drinking Irish beer, but often the person who the day is honoring gets left by the wayside.
Saint Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland because he is credited with converting the Irish people to the Catholic faith. His example teaches us humility and courage. His feast day is a welcomed opportunity to celebrate, even while we are in the middle of our Lenten observances.
Originally from Great Britain, Saint Patrick found his way to Ireland when he was sixteen after being kidnapped and made to become a slave. He was forced to work as a shepherd, however, during his time in slavery he discovered the power of prayer.
Saint Patrick even attributed his future escape because of his prayers being heard by God. Once free, he started studying for the priesthood in France and was consecrated as a bishop at age forty-three. Saint Patrick felt called to return to Ireland. He felt it necessary to do missionary work and spread the gospel among the pagan Irish people.
Despite the challenges he faced, Saint Patrick was able to transform the country and help evangelize the people of Ireland. He baptized thousands of people, ordained priests, and worked hard there for forty years before his death on March 17th, 461.
Saint Patrick and the Trinity
When teaching the pagan Irish people about the Holy Trinity they struggled to understand the concept of God being three Divine Persons. To help them grasp the concept, Saint Patrick used the shamrock.
He showed them that while the plant had only one stem, it still had three leaves and at once the people of Ireland understood the mystery of the Holy Trinity. In order to make learning about the Holy Trinity more fun, feel free to use this printable coloring sheet
on Saint Patrick’s day.
Let your kids color and then explain how the shamrock represents the three persons of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Not a Solemnity
In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is a solemnity and a holy day of obligation, which means the faithful are not obliged to keep their Lenten sacrifices on this day. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the universal Church. That means that in the United States, it is an optional memorial.
Unless your diocese grants a dispensation when Saint Patrick’s day occurs on a Friday, you are still required to abstain from meat because the feast day is during Lent. This makes meal planning for Saint Patrick’s day more challenging because we cannot default to the traditional corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes that we would normally serve.
No Meat? What Should We Eat?
Instead, for dinner on Saint Patrick’s feast day this year, we will be serving a Guinness and onion soup
, topped with Irish cheddar cheese croutons. This soup is simple and flavorful, but it is all about the ingredients to make it Irish-inspired.
Guinness is an Irish dry stout that was originally brewed in Dublin, Ireland starting in 1759. Because it is a stout, the flavor can come across as bitter when cooking, so be sure to use regular Draught Guinness.
The other important ingredient is the Irish cheddar cheese for your croutons. A good brand to use is Kerrygold, although if you cannot find that at your local store, the Boar’s Head brand will work too. Even though buying specific ingredients can sometimes be expensive, we like planning it as part of our budget and meal plan because we want to make the feast day special.
During Lent, it is common to give up something as part of your Lenten sacrifice. Oftentimes this means giving up sweets, treats, and desserts and this year is no different for our family.
Instead of making a sweet dessert, this year we are going to make an Irish Soda bread to have another Irish-inspired food item during the day. We found a straightforward recipe from Simply Recipes
The traditional ingredients for the bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The bread is named “soda bread” because of the reaction of the acid in the buttermilk and the base in the baking soda which provides the bread’s leavening.
Irish soda bread can have different variations based on what is added to it. We followed the recipe and used raisins for our bread, but you could use caraway seeds, both, or neither depending on your preference.
Making this bread is a messy process because the dough is wet and shaggy and you use your hands to mix it together. Be sure not to overwork the dough because then your bread will end up being too tough. You can bake the bread in a cast-iron skillet or on a regular baking sheet depending on what you have on hand.
The plan is to serve the bread as an afternoon snack, warm with some butter. If you are fasting on this day, this bread also makes an excellent choice for a small meal.
The final way my family will be celebrating Saint Patrick’s feast day is by reading a book about Saint Patrick’s life by author Tomie dePaola and praying part of the Breastplate of Saint Patrick prayer.
Tomie dePaola has written numerous books about other Saints including Saint Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Saint Pascual. The books are engaging and educational and make it easy to introduce different Saints to our kids.
The Breastplate of Saint Patrick prayer is a beautiful way to start off the feast day whether you pray the full version or just the abbreviated version of the prayer:
“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”
Saint Paul references putting on the “Armor of God'' in Ephesians 6:11 and through the intercession of Saint Patrick on his feast day we can use this prayer as protection against spiritual adversity. Enjoy the feast of Saint Patrick and Saint Patrick, pray for us!