Irish immigrants to the United States held the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York in 1762. Over 250 years later, Saint Patrick’s Day parades are a big deal in New York City, with each borough boasting their own. One of these boroughs came under heavy fire this year regarding its Paddy parade. The Staten Island Saint Patrick’s Day parade was the only NYC parade that did not allow LGBTQ groups to march under banners acclaiming their orientations and proclivities. The parade committee took a public stand on this issue, reflecting (better than most on Saint Patrick’s Day) the saint who achieved victory over a pagan nation by taking a stand.
It is bizarre how Americans have come to revere Saint Patrick. A religious feast that was celebrated quietly for a thousand years in Ireland has become a roaring beer fest in the United States. American culture has a way of savaging ancient culture, and that because America is in many respects a new race of savages—a new race of pagans with a new pantheon of idols. The United States is still, even in the 21st century, missionary country. Yet, by some mystical irony, the one saint who is widely “honored” in the land of the neo-pagans is Saint Patrick the Missionary.
Saint Patrick’s life is legendary, from his abduction by pirates as a boy and his slavery under an Irish chieftain as a young man, to his staunch bravery against the Druids while a missionary priest in Ireland. The course that Patrick set in the fifth century Christianized the whole of Ireland within two hundred years of his ministry, making Ireland the only country in Europe to kneel before the cross without violence, and bringing an end to slavery, human sacrifice, and intertribal warfare.
Towards the end of his life, on the Mountain of the Eagle, now called Croagh Patrick, Saint Patrick is said to have wrestled with God to secure redemption for the people he fought for with his life’s work and spiritual strength. Standing atop that mountain, Patrick took a stand against the raging elements and even against raging devils, battling for the soul of Ireland. For forty days Patrick suffered in isolation until he was granted three divine promises: that those Irish who did penance for their sins would be saved; that the barbarians would never conquer the Church in Ireland; and that the Irish people would enjoy final perseverance until Doomsday, when Patrick himself would pass judgment over his beloved flock.
It can only be wondered how he judges the observation of his feast day. Though Saint Patrick’s Day has been thoroughly secularized in America along with Saint Valentine’s and Saint Nicholas’s, at least Saint Patrick is yet remembered as a saint. Granted, March 17 and parade days are usually kept by drinking green beer while wearing o’ the green. But still, the day is kept. Granted, it is littered with sequin shamrocks and leering leprechauns. But still, it is the one day when “everyone is Irish,” and American pagans hail the very one who saved the Irish pagans. In that lies a strange and subtle hope—especially on those cultural fronts where the fighting is fiercest. And the LGBTQ front is one of those.
The ban on LGBTQ participation in the March 1 Staten Island Saint Patrick’s Day parade kindles that hope for sanity in the face of insanity. Over the last five years, advocacy groups such as the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organization and Irish Queers have secured a place in New York’s Saint Patrick’s Day parades, especially in Manhattan. This development has been judged contrary to one of the policies of the parades, namely, that politics stay out of it—a policy which has kept a pro-life message from marching along Fifth Avenue as well. But there is always a pass for the gay activists, even though the capitulation has been regarded with some contempt even from the gay community as a placating by parade organizers who were more interested in PR than a genuine welcome of LGBTQ lifestyles. The Staten Island officials, on the other hand, are loud and clear in their opposition—damn the public relations—taking a stronger stand than Timothy Cardinal Dolan did five years ago when, as Grand Marshal, he declared that he had no objection to the presence of homosexual groups in the parade.
Tensions escalated the day before this year’s Staten Island parade when Miss Staten Island, Madison L’Insalata, proclaimed her bisexuality and her plan to wear a rainbow outfit in the parade to defy the exclusive position of the organizers toward LGBTQ celebration. Parade organizer Larry Cummings promptly banned L’Insalata and her beauty pageant entourage citing safety concerns just as he had banned Staten Island’s Pride Center earlier.
When pressed by reporters on these matters, Mr. Cummings’s response was wonderfully to the point and down to earth: “Here’s the deal, it’s a non-sexual identification parade and that’s that. No, they are not marching. Don’t try to keep asking a million friggin’ questions, okay? The fact of the matter is that’s what it is, okay? And that’s that.” It may not be eloquence, but it was well said. In the face of this rigid old-fashioned logic, appeals for interference from the Staten Island Pride Center went to the Archdiocese of New York, which claims Saint Patrick as their patron saint, but the archdiocese chose not to become involved in the inclusivity spat. Staten Island’s parade committee took a stance for truth and tradition in that borough’s parade, and that, as Mr. Cummings said, was that.
The wayward who embrace the unhealthy disorders of homosexuality and transgenderism are among the postmodern pagans. Though their flamboyance is a scandal during an event purportedly devoted to a Catholic saint, could there be some way they are exposing themselves to the power of this great evangelist and converter? Just as Mark Twain, a bitter atheist, honored Saint Joan of Arc in his beautiful book and perhaps thereby unknowingly won the prayers of the Maid of Orléans, so, too, might the brash atheists and nature-deniers of our time unknowingly surrender their souls in some way to the prayers of Saint Patrick. May it be so, and may Saint Patrick’s Paschal fire burn brightly on Staten Island against popular perversity as it did in Ireland against the Druids on the Hill of Slade.
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