Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

St. Patrick and the Snakes

I am rather inclined by nature to prefer natural explanations to supernatural ones, when it comes to understanding natural events or, for that matter, when it comes to analyzing claims of supernatural phenomena. I also understand the difficulties in interpreting historical accounts written by people more or less willing than myself to believe reports they have heard of the supernatural.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in miracles as a possibility - and not just the "sunshine is a miracle" sort, either. I have made four pilgrimages to Lourdes and while there, I witnessed what seems to me to be the supernatural healing of a paraplegic. I also have had a couple near brushes with death that have given me great confidence in my guardian angel, whose existence I do not take to be figurative, but very, very real. Realer than my own.

All of this is said by way of disclaimer, because I want also to say that I think the account of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland is probably at least somewhat allegorical rather than purely factual in nature.
The Ireland of Patrick's day, the Ireland that enslaved him and the Ireland that the missionary bishop evangelized, was not a nice place. Britain being the edge of Roman civilization, Hibernia (as they called Ireland) was the beginning of the shadows. Beyond that was the dark and brooding North Atlantic, which no man had sailed. The island did not have a government and laws, but had warlords and power. It did not have manorial estates or great cities like those found in the Roman world, but id did have slaves like the Romans had. It did not have elegant priests with elaborate cults to various gods gathered from around the world by explorers and soldiers; no, it had gods of its own, and fearsome priests who conducted deadly and secret rituals. Those fearsome priests fed their fearsome gods with the fearful blood of human victims.

I believe that the snakes in this allegory about St. Patrick represent the evil demons hidden behind the masks provided by the names of those Celtic gods. Wherever those dark gods have been worshiped - Hibernia, Mesoamerica, Phoenicia, and beyond - they have demanded blood, and they have shared a remarkable interest in the blood of virgins and children. The most virginal of virgins (except for the Virgin) and childish of children is, of course, a little baby. No blemish nor spot, on the skin or in the heart - the perfect sacrifice for demons that hate God, that hate goodness, that hate innocence and purity, that hate. I believe they hate babies for this reason, and I believe that they are trying to prevent the final return of Jesus Christ, whom they believe will return as he came the first time: a little child.

St. Patrick, who prayed and fasted, who was unsuccessfully poisoned and burned, who loved his enemies, drove the demons out of Hibernia. I bet the people, living long under those dark shadows, were immediately interested in self-sacrificial love as a, shall we say "viable," alternative to the scheming sacrifice of others that was taught by their own priests. When they saw that immense love in his own person, they were hooked. What is known is that within a few years of his arrival, many average folks and several chieftains in Hibernia had been converted by the ex-slave with the shamrock. He provoked fierce opposition from entrenched religious and political interests in doing so, but by the time he passed to eternal reward, St. Patrick seems to have converted almost the whole darned place. In any event, Hibernia was well on its way to becoming Ireland. Ireland is not the First Daughter of the Church (that is France), nor the Finest Flower of Catholic Culture (I am going to award that title to Italy), nor the Most Ardent Defender of the Faith (let's say Spain, which conquered the Moors). But I will say that Ireland, her recent religious malaise aside, is perhaps of all rocky and cracked places, the country with the most tenacious faith.

St. Patrick did that.

Think of our country. We have immense potential and tremendous accomplishments. We unfortunately have a recent fascination with solving our problems by killing them. Even our littlest little "problems" get killed without quarter or mercy by our modern, scientific, medical and judicial priesthoods. Our country is, I believe, in the feverish and menacing grip of very wicked spirits. They pervert our leaders, enchant our spokespeople, drowse our people, mutilate our laws, and are eroding our nation in so many ways.
St. Patrick might very well be a powerful intercessor for us.  Think on that over your drinks tonight.

St. Patrick, please drive away the snakes from our nation. Amen.

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