Without a doubt, Patrick is the most well-known of the great Celtic saints. Patrick, who was a deacon's son, was not a native of Ireland. He first went to Ireland as a slave and later returned as a missionary. He was most likely a native Welsh-speaker. He is truly a pan-Celtic figure.
Given the tendency to caricature being Irish as being a hopeless, piss-pants, foul-mouthed drunk, I think writing about another great Irish Christian on this occasion is very appropriate: Venerable Matt Talbot. He lived from 1856 to 1925. This year is the 90th anniversary of his death.
By the time he was 13, Matt had a serious drinking problem and was considered by many to be a hopeless alcoholic. Having spent much of his young life drinking heavily, after taking a 90 day pledge not to drink in 1884, Matt remained sober for the rest of his life. By all accounts it seems that his first seven years sober were especially difficult for him.
Matt Talbot was one person Pope St John Paul II very much wanted to canonize. No doubt Matt's intercession has resulted in many miracles among men and women struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction, enough to warrant him being a saint. To many he is a saint. In my view, it's really the popular devotion, not the canonical process, that matters. I urge you to go to his website, run by the Archdiocese of Dublin. When you do so, you'll read this on the first page: "Today we live in an age of addictions more sophisticated perhaps than those of Matt's day, addictions to substances such as alcohol and other drugs soft or hard, prescription or illegal, addictions to gambling, pornography and the internet, addictions to work, professional advancement, sex, money and power. All these have the ability to destroy our lives and like demons even our very souls as well." Forget about driving the snakes out of Ireland (there were never any there to begin with), what about the demons in your soul, the ones that haunt you?
Below is the official prayer for Matt Talbot's canonization:
O Jesus, true friend of the humble worker, Who hast given us in Thy servant, Matthew, a wonderful example of Victory over vice, a model of penance and love for Thy Holy Eucharist, grant, we beseech Thee, that we Thy servants may overcome all our wicked passions and sanctify our lives with penance and love like his.By all means celebrate St Patrick's Day, just don't forget Who it is about. To help you, here's a treat from The Chieftans:
And if it be in accordance with Thine adorable designs that Thy pious servant should be glorified by the Church, deign to manifest by Thy heavenly favors the power he enjoys in Thy sight, Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen. 100 day's Indulgence each time. 15 June 1931
St Joseph, pray for us
St Patrick, pray for us
Venerable Matt Talbot, pray for us
All holy men and women, pray for us