St. Patrick’s Day: Ottawa style!

Basilica of St. Patrick

This year was my first St. Patrick’s Day outside of Europe so I didn’t really know what to expect! Whilst I was in Italy, I never really celebrated it but when I was in Poland, with the help of my sister Andrea who came over for a few days from Germany, we had St. Patrick’s Day in style.
However, I soon realised that St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal here. It started a few weeks ago with all the decorations and ads in the pubs advertising green Guinness and live Irish music. I even spotted a promised ‘ceili’!  I subsequently found out that there was a special Mass in the Basilica of St. Patrick here in Ottawa, followed by a parade!  So on Saturday the 16th, I went with one of my classmates for Mass celebrated by Archbishop Terence Prendergast. A sole bagpiper greeted us on the steps though the poor guy really had my sympathy as the temperature must have been about minus 10 or 12 Celsius. Definitely not kilt weather! When I entered the Church, I was amazed to see the sea of green. Everybody had really made an effort to wear green clothing. I was glad that I had made the effort to find a green scarf the previous day and had a shamrock pin for my lapel. My wardrobe consists of mostly blue and white as many of you are aware! It was beautiful to see about 25 priests or so, concelebrating with the archbishop and remembering St. Patrick and his rich legacy to the Church, not just in Ireland, but all over the world.
The archbishop’s homily recalled the many sacrifices made by the Irish people who came to Canada since the Famine times and who built many of the buildings which we see today here in Ottawa. Of note is the Rideau Canal where many Irish labourers died under harsh working conditions and living circumstances. In the midst of the tribulations which the Irish Church is living through at this moment, we were invited not to forget the huge contribution of the thousands of missionaries who left our little island to go bring the message of Christ. Recalling the Year of Faith, Archbishop Prendergast presented the figure of St. Patrick who returned to the Irish people after seeing them calling to him in a dream. He was not asked to preach to them, to convert them, he was merely asked to be Christ among them. Similarly, we too, are asked to ‘be’ among the people, to ‘be’ Christ to others.
The choir sang very well even if they did ‘change’ some of the notes of our beloved hymns to St. Patrick. I confess I could feel the tears welling up as we belted out ‘Hail Glorious St. Patrick’ at the recessional hymn. I met up with Sr. Hope (you might remember she was the one who ‘adopted’ me when I first arrived in Ottawa), we meet by chance at the Cathedral back in August. It was great to see her and her wonderfully decorated shamrock jumper! After Mass I took a moment to go and pray at the shrine of St. Patrick and remembered each one of you there.On the way home, we decided to get breakfast and check out the local bakeries. To my delight, new batches of Irish cookies had been baked so I brought some home for some kind of ‘Irish’ gathering over the weekend.
St. Patrick's Day cookies!
On Sunday, the actual St. Patrick's Day, a mist of homesickness descended but thankfully it didn’t last too long. I am blessed to have friends here who keep me distracted on these kinds of days! I was mindful of our sisters in Ireland who were celebrating the golden and diamond jubilees of religious consecration of Sr. Maggiorina and Sr. Muriel. What a milestone to reach! In the evening, it was time to honour St. Patrick with cookies and Baileys and some Irish whiskey for the harder drinkers! I tried to do justice to some of the Irish ballads, giving a lash at the ‘Fields of Athenry’ and ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ but I probably need to get back singing a bit more! It was nice though to be together on the day where ‘everyone is a little bit Irish’!  All we were missing was a rendition of Riverdance but who knows, maybe next year!