Certainly, the pride one can still show in patron Saints is one of the "miracles" of modern living. For hundreds of years, pious folk (and those wishing to walk very far and write big long Middle English anthology books) have gone on what were called "pilgrimages," journeys of miles and months to honor and gain the favour of Sainted Patrons and of the hottie they were walking next to.
Today, we just drink, march clumsily a few blocks in parades, and buy stupid cards.
On the Seventeenth of March, celebrants commemorate (loudly and drunkenly) the Feast Day of the First Archbishop of Armagh. His O'Excellency had to be the First, since there wasn't an Armagh to be even Mayor of until he founded it, somewhere around the improbable date of 444 A.D. (or 444 C.E., according to your calendrical prejudice). That "driving the snakes out of Ireland" claim is as much good ballyhoo as the one about keeping the "terrorists" at bay. Because there weren't any snakes to begin with, you see. A few words in the right ears to the boys at the FOX Printing Press, and there you are.
The Seventeenth of March is, in truth, the Feast Day of Gertrude of Nivelles. You know, the one depicted in (the above) iconography as the Saint with the Slow Lorus on her walking stick. Bet you didn't know that Belgium even had Saints. Or Slow Loruses. (Not Lori. "Saint Lori" is someone else entirely.) That's why you're reading this. That, and your Mom makes you. Why, of course Belgium has Saints. And darn swell ones, at that, what with being
Flemish Walloonish and all. And the thing on the stick is a mouse. Or rat. Gertrude of Nivelles is sometimes known as the Patroness of Fear of Rodents.
Let me explain...
Gertrude of Nivelles was descended from Austrasian Frankish nobility. But don't let that give you the false notion that any old Austrasian Frankish nobility in your genealogy will get you into the Hall of March Saints. No. In Gertrude's case, she had to use her family's considerable resources to feed and provide drink to Irish missionaries and to weary travellers (one assumes, because it's usually the case with these things) and to repel vermin. Yes, "repel vermin." Not necessarily the Irish missionaries. It was drinks for the Irish missionaries. And that's where the drinking on Saint Patrick's Day comes from. A misreckoning of the holy hospitality of the Real Seventeenth of March Saint.
So now you can tell everyone.
A draught from "Saint Gertrude's Cup" is how a Belgian who knows of such things will send you off on your way.
"One for the road," I like to say.
Gertrude, while she was Abbess of some Belgian priory that she had built with her own
money hands, would have none of the locals' tolerance of rodents. Not Our Gert. She shooed the varmints off and installed cats in their steads. Which is why we venerate Gertrude of Nivelles as Patroness of Cats.
And especially so on the Seventeenth of March.
more green beer please
Captain Wallbank’s Book O'Saints (a special publication from the people who bring you Captain Wallbank's Almanack) is not intended to be used as reference material for school projects, masters theses, papal encyclicals, magazine and newspaper articles, partisan hack radio talk shows, diocesan newsletters, commencement addresses, valedictory speeches, catechism classes, or, especially, as an authorized authority for bets involving someone buying someone a drink.