Four weeks from today comes one of my favorite feasts of the calendar: St. Patrick's Day. Of course, there are a lot of extra-liturgical celebrations that come with it..... And I love those oh so much. The festival (known in the vernacular as the "pub crawl") starts next weekend.
For a full-blooded southern Italian, my affinity for the feast of the patron of Ireland -- who, so it's said, cast the snakes out of it -- is somewhat counterintuitive.
But, I'm sorry, Columbus Day just isn't as fun; there is no joy in chugging red wine. You're not supposed to chug red wine. And while Italians see St. Joseph as one of their own, and everything closes in Italy on his feast, he wasn't Italian. But indulging in the cream-filled zeppole on his feast is always a joy. (As 19 March falls on Sunday this year, St. Joseph's Day will be transferred to Monday, the 20th.)
However, here's a prediction which will be vindicated: As this is one of those years in which St. Paddy's falls on a Lenten Friday, you will see -- especially in the papers of the large Catholic cities (Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis, Boston, et al.) -- articles in the press about "What to do about your corned-beef sandwich?"
Now, here in the States, most dioceses are smart enough to grant an indult, so that the children of Ireland (and those who love them) may eat the proper food with impunity.
This fascinates non-Catholics. The last time Paddymas fell on a Friday, I found myself in the daily editorial meeting of a large metropolitan newspaper as the topic of "What to do about your corned-beef sandwich?" came up. Judging by how it had to be explained, and the reaction, you would've thought the theory of relativity was being taught to third-graders or something. But they just (no pun intended) ate it up.
What's always most interesting in this context is those dioceses that don't grant the indult from Friday abstinence for the day, and its subjects who get wind of it and go into another ecclesiastical jurisdiction so that, at least technically, they're not sinning.
We used to have a form of this here. I've just been reminded that next week marks a decade since the death of the legendary John Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia -- just as it is with the Cush in Boston, Krol is still seen by many here as "The Cardinal" given his larger-than-life presence and monumental 27-year tenure.
Until it was mandated by the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law, Krol forbade the Saturday evening celebration of Sunday vigil Masses, and many then-twentysomething Philadelphians of the 1970s will tell you about going to the weekly 12am (i.e. midnight) Sunday Mass at Assumption Church on Spring Garden Street, which catered to the young people's desire to fulfill their obligation, after which they could go out into the night and sleep it off the following morning.
Others just took the loophole of crossing the bridges into New Jersey, and rush-hour-esque traffic jams would form over the Delaware River at 3pm on Saturday afternoons to make the Saturday vigils. This would be repeated, of course, for the trip home. And the commuters would have to pay a toll.
Further proof that, where there's a will, there's always an ecclesiastical way.