Friday, March 17
The earliest editions of the Legenda Aurea of Blessed Jacobus de Voragine have a short and wildly inaccurate entry on St. Patrick, which places the holy man, most bizarrely, in Scotland. Nonetheless, it also includes a little legend which is at once so stoic and charmingly klutzy as to be too strange to make up. It seems the holy man was baptizing one of the chieftains of the Irish, a tough old bird if ever there was one. So Patrick paused for a moment to roll up his sleeves to pour the water over the chief's head, and stuck the sharp point of his crozier in the soft earth to keep his hands free. (You may recall that the ferrule on a crozier, the sharp business end of the shepherd's staff, is symbolically meant to encourage a bishop's flock.) So he paused for a moment to ready himself, picked up the basin to pour the water, and realized he had thrust his staff, not into the earth, but right through the old king's foot, and the rough, hardy old fellow, thinking it was part of the ceremony, hadn't said a word.
I imagine he apologized next. But there's something in that story which says a lot about the Irish--their hardiness, their strength, and their traditional willingness to do just about anything for God. And that they enjoy a good punchline, too.