March 17, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

A lesson in evangelization and a few Irish saints

Irish Catholics celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. So does nearly everyone else who likes to party, and enjoy good Irish food and drink.

The March 17 feast day has become so celebrated that, in some ways, it has been secularized. This is good if we demonstrate Christ’s love through our behavior, but not good if we are obscuring the essence of the feast day and scandalizing others.

Recently, I learned that a worldwide Catholic evangelization group based in Sanford, N.C.,—the lay apostolate One Bread—marched in an early St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Raleigh, N.C.

Participants wore Catholic evangelist T-shirts, and distributed St. Patrick prayer cards with the saint’s biography and an invitation to attend Mass at nearby churches. The cards also shared the Diocese of Raleigh’s Web site, which lists churches and gives free information about the faith.

To encourage youth groups to participate, the best costumes, signs and performances in the parade won a Catholic youth evangelization award, trophy, medals and more. One Bread has participated in the parade for three of the past four years. However, it primarily evangelizes through its Web site,

After the parade, One Bread hosted a fundraiser, where baked goods, drinks, religious items and free information about the Church were available. Perhaps such activities could be included in future St. Patrick’s Day events in our archdiocese.

Meanwhile, I enjoy everything about this time of year—even though my heritage is Swiss and German. However, I recently did learn something that greatly pleased me. I was born on the July 11 feast day of another Irish saint, a martyr canonized in 1975, St. Oliver Plunket (1629-81).

When learning this, I also found other Irish saints’ feast days, in addition to Ireland’s patron, St. Patrick, of course. They included St. Aidan, founder of a great center of Celtic Christianity (Aug. 31); St. Brendan, patron of boatmen, sailors, travelers and whales (May 16); St. Brigid, patron of babies, blacksmiths, cows and dairy workers, Ireland, midwives, poets, sailors, scholars and travelers (Feb. 1); St. Columba, patron of bookbinders, Ireland, poets and Scotland (June 9); St. Columban, whose emblem is the bear since he had a knack for causing trouble (Nov. 23); St. Ita, the revered teacher of St. Brendan (Jan. 15); St. Kevin, patron of blackbirds, the archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland, and Glendalough, Ireland (June 3); St. Kiernan, a visionary who founded a great Irish monastery (Sept. 9); and St. Malachy, the first Irish saint to be canonized by a pope in 1199 (Nov. 3).

I found this information (and short biographies of these saints) at However, I could not verify every one of the saints on Catholic Web sites. Perhaps readers will do better than I.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


Local site Links: