How Many Patricks Is That?

by Thomas O’Dwyer

St Patrick
St Patrick with attributes – shamrock, crozier, Celtic cross, snake and blue cloak, not green.

“God the Father. God the Son. God the Holy Ghost. How many gods is that? You, Quinn!”

“Three, Sir.”

“No, you heathen pup. There’s only one God. Come up here!”

In those bygone days of paganly sadistic Irish teachers, “come up here” meant that Quinn had fallen for what we called “the strap trap.” The teacher would deliberately choose a pupil who would fall for a trick question and then take pleasure in delivering three stinging whacks each to the unfortunate’s outstretched palms. Me, I blamed St. Patrick and his cute trick of raising a shamrock on high and telling the bemused heathens, “See, three leaves on one stem; that is the holy trinity of three persons in one true God.” His folksy logic had failed to travel down the millennia to penetrate Quinn’s admittedly thick 20th-century skull.

Thursday is St. Patrick’s Day. This is a day that for long divided those who were born and raised on Patrick’s green island from those who weren’t. Those who weren’t wore green hats, drank green beer beside green-dyed rivers and said things like “begorrah and the top of the morning to yourself” in foul American-Irish accents. They all had Irish grandmothers – the apparent outer limit of Celtic heritage. Once, during a three-month slice of my life in Orlando, Florida, I noted in a diary that 122 people had told me they had Irish grandmothers – that was an average of ten a week. It was embarrassing to be Irish in certain parts of America on St. Patrick’s Day. Read more »