St. Patrick

WE DON’T know if St. Patrick ever actually tasted beef brisket cooked with cabbage and potatoes — he actually lived before potatoes were sent from the New World back to Ireland — and we hope he never tasted any green beer.

But whether or not you’re Irish, whether or not you like traditional Irish food, whether or not you drink a green beer today or a Guinness Stout or a Coke, even if you can’t tell the difference between shamrocks and crown vetch, St. Patrick’s Day gives us reason for celebration.

From our limited knowledge of history, we know little about St. Patrick.

Legend has it he drove the snakes off the island. We do know he introduced Christianity to Ireland in the Fifth century. That work was apparently very successful, as the Irish were soon sending religious and cultural missionaries to the rest of Europe.

The circumstances which gave this country a large Irish population were tragic in nature. Most immigrants fled in the 19th century as the potato famine hit the Emerald Isle from 1845 to 1848. The country has yet to fully recover from that blow. Ireland’s population was approximately 8.5 million people in 1845.

Today it’s only about 4.5 million and Ireland, like the U.S, is experiencing economic problems.

The Irish have given much to this country, from politicians such as Al Smith and John Kennedy, to cultural happenings such as Frank McCort’s novel “Angela’s Ashes” and the stage show “Riverdance.”

OUR THOUGHTS and prayers go out to the countless Irish who were plagued by years of bloodshed in Northern Ireland. But — at a time when more and more people are becoming a little Irish and a little everything else — we can find solace in what the Irish and all other immigrants did when they arrived in the United States.

They came in rags, then built the greatest nation in the world.