The City of Milwaukee had its St. Patrick’s Day parade last weekend.

I couldn’t make it downtown to see it in person, but I did catch some of the newscast reporting on it that night. Looks like it was quite a show. Lots of fun and lots of crazy outfits, as you might imagine.

It intrigues me that he’s still called Saint Patrick, not only by Catholics, but by non-Catholics and even non-religious folks as well. In most communities, St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal and has been for ages. St. Valentine lost his saint title, so to speak, through time and St. Nicholas (although still celebrated by that name in many places) kind of lost his identity to Santa Claus. But St. Patrick has maintained his sainthood in our vocabulary until today. I think it’s important to note that.

For sure, a large part of the enthusiasm is due to the parades and green beer. In Chicago, they dye the Chicago River green on March 17 in honor of the patron of Ireland. In case you worry about the environment, the dye they use is eco-friendly and fades after a few hours. Apparently, this long-standing tradition draws quite a crowd. Other municipalities do similar things, and a large number offer free public transit rides for those who partake too generously in green brew that night.

How does the saying go? On St. Patrick’s Day, everybody’s Irish! or something like that.

I think that’s more true today than ever before.

It’s recorded that St. Patrick was born in 387 in Scotland, although on occasion he called himself a Briton. He was captured by slave traders when he was 16, was carted off to Ireland and held in slavery there for six years before escaping to France. He experienced a deep conversion during this captivity. At the age of 43, he was made a bishop and soon after had a vision. In it, “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him and he took this as a sign that he must return to Ireland to convert her people to Christianity. After a long life devoted to converting pagans, he died peacefully in 493.

St. Patrick’s vision of the children of Ireland applies today and is worthy of consideration. The world is filled with children who need to be saved from abortion, abuse, and neglect of all kinds. It’s also filled with adult children who are in need of conversion from pagan practices, deliverance from ignorance, and rescue from sinfulness of their own or others. These children are stretching out their hands to us right now and there’s a way we can reach back to them.

St. Patrick’s Day is an opportunity to participate in St. Patrick’s mission to save, not only the children of Ireland, but the children of the world. In the days prior and on Marcy 17, we’ll be hearing people mention St. Patrick countless times. They might not be referring to the St. Patrick, but we could. We could use that as a reminder to pray for the conversion of non-believers, sinners, and the end to abortion and child abuse. We also could use it as an opening for a mini-evangelization by drawing attention to the saint himself. It can be done casually and non-threateningly in conversation, and without being abrasive or know-it-all.

Prepare ahead. Learn something – or many things – about St. Patrick and look for that opening to slip in a sentence or two about who he was, what he did, and why the Faith was so important to him. You might to add a line or two about why the Faith is so important to you, too. You just never know how or when the tiny seeds you plant will grow.

St. Patrick is still Saint Patrick in the public eye. Let’s take advantage of that fact.