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In North America we think we know all about St. Patrick when we drink green beer and pinch anyone who is not wearing green. However what do we really know about St. Patrick and, more importantly, what relevance does he have today. In fact Dr Kelly Fitzgerald, from University College, Dublin believes that St. Patrick has had his day and should be replaced by St. Brigid as the main patron saint of the country. She asks, in the current climate, should Patrick hold the title and suggests that it might be time to reassess his position. Dr. Fitzgerald goes on to ask, “ .. what has Patrick ever really done for us anyway?”  She continues by asking, “If you were really ...in a bind, would you turn to Patrick?” As the world becomes more complex, she continues, “ … there is a need for multiple and different voices to shine through.” Finally she says that these are not new voices but they have been overshadowed in a national sense and now it is time to give them a chance to speak for the country.

In recent years as a result of the mass migration of people from conflict to shores of Europe or to escape poverty and cross borders to get into the USA or Canada the story of St. Patrick has become more important and relevant. On St. Patrick’s Day 2017, Seamus O’Regan, MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl stood in parliament to remind his colleagues, the people of Canada and many people of Irish extraction who may have forgotten where they come from to  open their hearts to those seeking refuge. He continued to say in …

“In 1847, the Irish were treated with the same contempt and vitriol that is levied at other immigrants today,” he said, pointing to newspapers of the day describing the newcomers as “ignorant,” “lazy,” as “vicious as they are poor.”  As Fenians and Papists set to impose their own religious laws.

Another politician, the former Irish Prime-minister, Enda Kenny, spoke in a similar vein in Washington DC when he said that St. Patrick was a migrant. Patrick had a good life in his home in Wales along with his family. However, through no fault of his own, he was forced from his land to work as a slave tending pigs on Slemish Mountain. How is St. Patrick different from the thousands of other migrants who have been forced from their homes as a result of the actions of others? One way he is different from them is that he survived. Three year old Alan Kurdi was not so lucky. He, along with his  family, was fleeing the war in Syria and trying to get to Canada to be with relations in Coquitlam, BC. Not many people remember his name but the picture of the young child lying limp on a beach in Turkey had a major a major impact around the world.

If we look at St. Patrick’s Day as being one when people wear green, drink green beer or wear silly hats, it is time for Patrick to be replaced by St. Brigid or even St. Columba. If, however, he is seen as the patron saint of migrants or the oppressed then he still has a role to play in the world today. He can be a beacon for those who have little but can make a life in a new land. He can also be a reminder those who have benefitted from that land to never forget  where they come from and to help the modern day Patricks.

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