17 March 2009

Happy St Patrick's Day

As a person of predominantly Irish origin (one of fifty million in North America- there are more Irish here than in Ireland) I cannot let this day pass without note.

Patrick is to be seen throughout n the Catholic Churches in this area. There are statues of him, even in churches not dedicated to him. St Mary's church on Bathurst has no less than four representations of him in painting, statues and stained glass. At Hamilton's cathedral of Christ the King St Patrick is placed by one of the doors, gazing down benevolently on all who pass by him into the doors. As the Irish spread out from Ireland they carried their respect of Patrick with them, and placed him everywhere.
In related news:
Because this is a day that has become attached to the celebration of all things Irish, there are of course television shows on that have some connection to things Irish. Last night I saw a rather good one about the Famine Irish coming to Toronto one the History Channel: Death or Canada. One very interesting thing about the show was that it was one of the few times- well, only, really- in recent memory that I've seen a show made in Canada, produced in part with funding by the Canadian Government, that said something positive about the Catholic Church! It's praise was focused mainly on this man:

Michael Power, first Bishop of the diocese of Toronto. The show last night called him the "Saviour of Toronto". Power had been on a liminal visit in 1847 and was returning home via England and Ireland, traveling around to try and find new priests, nuns and some money for projects back in Toronto. As he travelled through Ireland he was appalled by the scope of the crisis, and he began sending letters back to Toronto telling his staff to prepare for a looming disaster. He then embarked on a steam ship and travelled by train to Toronto and began preaching to his congregation and speaking to the Toronto council that there was a humanitarian disaster heading their way as soon as the ice cleared from the Great Lakes. His congregation heeded him, but the council did not. But Power would not be silenced, and throughout the summer he harangued council to get some aid for the famine Irish, who carried the dreaded Typhus with them. Eventually council relented, and temporary sheds were erected to treat the Irish sick, and Power himself was there every day, tending the sick and the dying. In October, he himself contracted Typhus, and he died at the too young age of 42. Due at least in part to his efforts at organizing relief, the Irish coming to Toronto had a lower death rate than elsewhere. The show called him, and the people who worked alongside him, "martyrs to charity". It was gratifying to see this man praised in the media, and praised wholeheartedly and without restrictions, with no backhanded 'yeah-buts'-and through him the Church, on a day dedicated to one of our great missionaries.

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