Catholic News Service
St. Patrick
Catholic News Service
St. Patrick
As people everywhere find their corned beef and cabbage recipes to prepare for the feast day of St. Patrick, it’s worth remembering through the Guinness-induced haze who brought the religious and cultural holiday to the United States.

In 1847, hundreds of thousands of malnourished Irish spent days guarding their dead from ravenous dogs. Black ’47, as the year is known in Ireland, marked the worst of the five-year potato blight, in which one million starved to death and two million fled the Emerald Isle.

One of those to escape was a 9-year-old orphan (an ancestor of a Catholic Sentinel staffer) who lost his parents and then traveled by ship to America by himself.

Refugees of the Irish famine shaped American Catholicism like no other group. Many Oregon towns became heavily Irish — Heppner, Lakeview and Irish Bend. Catholic Churches in these spots tend to be called St. Patrick’s.

But in the cultural memory of Oregon’s Irish Catholics is always the famine, the result of a fungus spread from the New World and British government policies that kept aid at bay.

It’s painful to think of our ancestors’ suffering. But let us be mindful that today there are people all over the world suffering from extreme scarcities of food, water and other basic needs. To St. Patrick, we pray for intercession for our ancestors who suffered and those who suffer today.   

“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.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.