Happy belated St Patty's!!
This past week, A Irish fellow who is a Jesuit in our province asked me what my plans were for St Patrick's. He probably expected some response that involved beer, beer,and more beer.
How disappointed he must have been when I simply said "nothing".
Being someone who's not a big fan of ale, it's only in recent years that I became 'interested' in St Patty's, mostly because of the tremendous diversity of people that this celebration brings together. In Montreal, you might as well call the day "celebrate the city's ethnic diversity day". It is this celebration -a lot more than alcohol drinking- that developed my interest in this day over the years.
Of course, now as I am not only a staunch Catholic, but also a religious brother, the day has a little more meaning to me, seeing that Patrick is one of the Greatest Saints in Christianity. So does it bother me that all these people clad in green and boozing it up have absolutely no concept of the religious element of this day? I mean, after all, it is supposed to be a day when those who are abstaining from Alcohol during Lent can really let themselves loose and have a great time, with the intention of going back on their Lenten fast the following day. Nowadays, you mention Lent to any of these drunken kids out there (they can still be heard 'painting the town' green from my bedroom window), and most of them will say "don't we celebrate that on Easter day?". Oh in the past I would have let out a great sigh and just walked away from the poor student, depressed about the lack of spirituality and religion in our world today.
Has that changed?
A little. Today, I went to Guelph for Spiritual direction, and after a wonderful session with my director, went for a little walk on the land....it was prayerful and quite peaceful...but thanks to that little walk...I missed my bus and had to wait 2 hours for the next one. So I hung around downtown Guelph, and watched, what looked like EVERY SINGLE STUDENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY in Guelph walking around in state of drunkeness...but still incredibly happy. And there was something almost infectious about the mood in the air.
Still, isn't my call as a religious to move away from this kind of behaviour, to abandon superficial source of happiness and seek out a more divine source of eternal joy? Oh...absolutely. Don't get me wrong, I did not envy or desire to be experiencing what these young people were...their quest for cheap fun that will only last till the evening is over and will make them sick in the morning is the last thing I yearn for these days. I am at peace and incredibly happy in my journey with, and towards God. There isn't much in this world that could replace this wonderful feeling.
Through this wonderful journey of mine, I am slowly beginning to learn, the Pastoral response to these festivities is neither to condemn, nor envy them, but simply to share the joy with them. I don't think I even want to be the one to argue that the Ignatian charism of 'finding God in all things' is applicable here. It trullly isn't.. But at the same time, there is also nothing edifying about looking down on these young people for not having spirituality, or a desire for more from life.
I realized that when I was walking home in the evening. Toronto was quite foggy tonight, so it made for a very eerie atmosphere, but the laughter and joy of the people echoed on every street corner. It...it felt like New year's eve to tell you the truth. And rather than condemning the revellers for not being creative enough to be able to find other ways of expressing their youthful energy,I found myself relishing in their joy, and even glad that I was able to share this with them, even for a little bit. Even if I wish there more spirituality in the world today, I am glad that there are events like these that bring people together in one huge celebration of life...