St Patrick’s Day (Freeman’s Journal, 1904)

1.644. The Freeman’s Journal, (Dublin), Thursday, 17 March, 1904, 4.

Extracts from an editorial on St. Patrick’s Day in The Freeman’s Journal.

On St. Patrick’s Day, 1904, The Freeman’s Journal’s lead editorial expounded at length on the interconnectedness of Ireland and Catholicism:


The feast of the National Saint has always been a religious holiday in Ireland. But now Irish opinion has coerced the British Government to constitute it a public National holiday as well. In the whole world there is no patron saint that is so honoured by the land of his love as St. Patrick, or so deserves the honour he receives. To him, and to him alone, Ireland owes the priceless heritage of the Faith to which she has clung with such heroic tenacity in the teeth of a persecution the most protracted, the most insidious, and the most malignant to which a nation has ever been subjected. England changed her religion like a loose glove at the bidding of a sovereign. She became Protestant under King Henry the Eighth, Catholic again under Queen Mary, and Protestant again under Queen Elizabeth. The Faith that Patrick planted in Ireland was a more robust and steadfast growth. Its roots were in the hearts of the people; its blossoms overshadowed the island rich in fruit. In the Ireland of St. Patrick religion and art and learning went hand in hand. It earned amongst the nations the proud title of the Island of Saints. Its missionaries overran Europe, sounding the war-cry of Christianity in every tongue, and planting its mysterious banner on every shore.

At this point, the editorial gives numerous instances of Ireland’s “love and gratitude” for St. Patrick.

It is not to be doubted that the Faith which Patrick planted in Ireland has deeply impressed the character of the people. It has given to them a spirituality of character, a devotion to high ideals, a yearning for blessings beyond the grave, which has ever been the theme of ridicule and censure by the calumniators of our people. In a book recently published we are assured that the Faith which Patrick planted in Ireland strikes an outsider as being in some of its tendencies non-economic, if not actually anti-economic. We are told that the blame must be apportioned between the ignorance on the part of the people and a somewhat one-sided religious zeal on the part of a large number of their clergy. Their religion is confounded in the book with fatalism. “Excessive and extravagant church-building, in the heart, and at the expense of poor communities, is a recent and notorious example of this misdirected zeal.” It is much easier for Sir Horace Plunkett, of course, to write insulting, high falutin [sic] platitudes about the character of the Irish people than to attend to the prosaic details of the business for which his salary is drawn.
¶¶The Irish people have, at home and abroad, proved able, with fair play, and often even without fair play, to hold their own in the economic contests of industries and commerce. But the children of Patrick have never denied that there are higher and nobler ideals to be pursued than mere material success.

The editorial here quotes from the Jail Journal of John Mitchel – though he “did not belong to what Sir H. Plunkett calls the anti-economic Catholic creed” – on an “enlightened inductive Baconian” making pragmatic objections to the Sermon on the Mount, suggesting it as a model for similar objections made to Catholicism.

[The people of Ireland] are little likely to abandon the teaching of St. Patrick for the teaching of Sir Horace Plunkett, who seems to have worked himself up into the belief that he is the true patron saint of the country. The people of Ireland have clearly demonstrated that, apart from alien obstruction, their religion helps, not hinders, their progress and prosperity. They will hold true in the future, as they held true in the past, to the priceless heritage of the Faith they received from the great Saint whose Festival they celebrate to-day.