A friend e-mailed me this morning from Savannah, Ga., where a local news station was airing St. Patrick’s Day Mass live from a local church. There is the green-cladded-ness to this day but there is also the Christian cross and the real point of the shamrock – teaching about the Trinity. The religious aspect of the day can get lost in the blarney, but this morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it was the occasion of a rare Lenten “Gloria.”
In New York, in particular, where St. Patrick is patron of the Catholic archdiocese, St. Patrick’s Day can seem a bit of a throwback with an unmistakable religiosity to the day. Mass began with members of the military, police officers, priests and nuns among the faithful, singing of the Trinity and the strength of Heaven as the believer’s breastplate against Satan’s power. But one only needs to reach for a Guinness to be reminded we’re living in 2014 and this all seems a bit foreign to a secularized world where mandated tolerance is not green in its tyrannical slouch.
This year, Guinness is boycotting New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade — withdrawing its sponsorship – because, not for the first time, the parade organizers have refused to permit gay groups to march with banners. Rather than respecting the parade’s history and tradition – rooted as it is in Catholic New York culture – the parade is being denounced as “anti-LGBT.”
The Dublin distiller has declared:
Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade… As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation. We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy.
This is not the first time there has been controversy over the parade, as the statement acknowledged. But it is the first St. Patrick’s Day in our new tyranny of faux tolerance. Maybe it was the Supreme Court in June, maybe it was a convergence of cultural events, but it is no longer tolerated in polite society — or anywhere a pint may be raised – to believe that men and women are different and complimentary, that sex is ordered toward more than what we declare it to be, and that marriage between a man and woman open to life is a fundamental pillar of a flourishing society.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade isn’t looking to make political statements. It’s a celebration of a saint and teacher, faith and family, history and cultural traditions. The homilist at Mass with Cardinal Dolan this morning at St. Patrick’s — America magazine editor Fr. Matthew Malone, S.J. — talked about the acts of faith and love that brought Irish immigrants to New York, founding churches and schools and hospitals and orphanages, testaments to discipleship. He ended his homily urging the faithful to listen to the voice of Christ speaking: “I am alive! And you cannot be the same.”
The challenge of the day for the religious believer is to know and love and live a faith that is radically countercultural in a society that sees real religious faith as a bit of a foreign threat. Having not been overwhelmed by public Christian witness in recent decades, having seen sin and scandal in the news and Catholic politicians explaining away their faith as a mere, personal, compartmentalized matter, many who are not hostile simply don’t understand why religious liberty would be anything more than being free to go to church or temple. The challenge for the believer in traditional marriage and a right order to the world is to communicate love always, while being clear in the principles proposed for a happy and full life in freedom, to know and love God and his tenets.
St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of a culture that has its roots in a Trinitarian reality. Just because a parade can’t bless your banner, doesn’t mean you’re not welcome at the feast. Whatever your attractions, whatever your politics, whatever your religion, enjoy corned-beef brisket and Guinness, if you please. Irish Catholics in New York and many others today pray that you may have the joy in work and self-sacrifice – with faith and family as their cornerstones — that so many Irish immigrants did in the last century. And, yes, the door of St. Patrick’s, currently covered in scaffolding, is open. It’s current renovation is a perfect metaphor for a church in renewal, re-encountering and re-proposing the sacramental life to anyone who feels called to enter.