St. Patrick’s Day always falls during the liturgical and holy season of Lent. For this reason, every few years it will land on a Friday. This year happens to be one of those times. St. Patrick’s Day being on a Friday can cause problems for Catholics who are asked to abstain from meat on Friday’ during Lent as a way to enter into the Lord’s Passion and death for our sins. (Christ died on Good Friday) This year, as with many previous years when this happens, a large portion of bishops across the nation have chosen to offer dispensations from the required abstinence from meat on Lent Fridays. The dispensations, although somewhat different between the bishops, allow Catholics to enjoy the festivities of eating shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and all of the meat dishes offered at St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. This is harmful to Catholics and their faith. It minimizes the importance of focusing on the crucifixion and death of Christ.
It is a good and noble thing to honor our saints and St. Patrick is one of my favorite saints. It is, on the other hand, dangerous to allow the celebration of a specific saint’s feast day override the recognition of the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross. The dispensation from abstaining from meat gives an illusion that the enjoyment of food in honor of a saint is more important than uniting ourselves to Christ, our Lord and Savior who sacrificed his life on the cross for us. In other words, it could seem that St. Patrick – just for a day – is hailed in higher esteem and of more importance than the crucifixion of Christ. I am certain St. Patrick would disagree with the dispensations and urge others to look toward the cross and not toward the shamrock.
Speaking of shamrocks: There are several myths about the great saint that many believe and give a false impression of regarding what St. Patrick is responsible for and what his accomplishments were on earth. The lies and myths about St. Patrick, among many others, include the claim he banished snakes from Ireland, used the shamrock to explain the Trinity and brought Christianity to Ireland.
He did none of these things, although he certainly did amazing works such as raising the dead and converting thousands of people to Christianity.
The idea of providing dispensations to Catholics so that they can enjoy bacon, corned beef, shepherd’s pie and so much more seems to originate from the desire of many Catholics with Irish roots or ancestry to celebrate their culture and heritage by enjoying the traditional dishes of the day. There are many bishops and archbishops that agree in providing dispensations and have allowed it. There are others, such as Cardinal Cupich, that believe it is overshadowing the sacrifice of Christ.
He said, “It is important to take seriously the obligation to observe Fridays in Lent as a way of uniting ourselves to Jesus who died on Good Friday. That should not be undervalued as we reflect on his sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of the world in this holy season.”
A dispensation provides Catholics the opportunity to enjoy meat on this particular Friday during Lent if they desire to do so. It does not require Catholics, of course, to eat meat. It only provides you the choice. The Church has become soft over the past few years regarding the disciplines which strengthen our faith. Just because the Church has, within leadership, become soft and relaxed does not mean you should.
This St. Patrick’s Day choose to bypass the corned beef and look toward the cross rather than the shamrock. It is the way St. Patrick would want it.