From An Claidheamh Soluis, March 25, 1905.
At home and abroad the Gael has kept Lá Fhéile Pádraig worthily. Within three years the Gaelic League has not only succeeded in investing the solemnisation of St. Patrick’s Day with all the distinction and dignity which attend the celebration of national feast days in other lands, but has given to the occasion a unique and special significance. In the mind of the Irish speaker Patrick stands as the embodiment of the old order of things, – the prototype of native civilisation. His personality looms larger than any other, historical or legendary, in the story of our people. Generations of Irish-speaking men and women have venerated in him not merely the great missionary who practically created the glorious Irish Church of the Middle Ages; not merely the profound statesman whose firm hand guided the destinies of Ireland during the trying period of transition between Paganism and Christianity; not merely the strong and rugged, yet withal very gracious and lovable, personality revealed to us in the saint’s literary remains, and so carefully preserved in Irish legend; but, over and above all these things, the cardinal type of Christian and Irish-speaking Ireland, and, though not a Gael, yet the greatest figure in Gaelic history. Our Irish equivalent for “from time immemorial” is still “ó aimsir Phádraig,” and we sum up the whole argument on behalf of the Irish language when we call it “Teanga Phádraig.”
Thus, Patrick is something more than a national patron, and it is fitting that his feast day should be something more than a national festival, as national festivals are celebrated in lands whose patrons do not possess the significance in the national story which attaches to St. Patrick in ours. This solemnisation of Lá Fhéile Pádraig by the chanting of High Mass in great cathedrals, the preaching of Irish sermons, the singing of Irish hymns, the participation of prelates and civic bodies and mighty congregations, the marching of hosts through the streets of our cities and towns, the assembly of great gatherings of Gaels at feiseanna, and concerts, and sgoraidheachta, and dramatic performances, — all this symbolises the fact that Ireland is resolutely turning her face back to the old paths, that the ideals and tradition and culture for which Patrick stands are still the ideals, traditions, and culture of the Gael.
We can barely touch on the more important incidents in the religious and civic solemnisation of the festival. In Dublin an immense congregation assisted at the pontifical High Mass in the Pro-Cathedral, the Archbishop and Chapter being present, and the Lord Mayor and Corporation attending in state. The Rev. Dr O’Hickey’s Irish sermon was an impassioned appeal to the loftiest and holiest sentiments of patriotism. Simultaneously Protestant Gaels assisted at a special service in St. Kevin’s Church, the Rev. F. W. O’Connell being the Irish preacher. In the evening Father MacEnerney preached in Irish at the Passionist Church, and on the following Sunday yet another Irish sermon was delivered in St. Joseph’s, Berkeley Street, by Father Flatley. Canon Shinkwin, P.P., preached in Irish at pontifical High Mass in the Cork Cathedral. Father Macken preached in Irish at Tuam, Father O’Carroll at Killarney, and Father Toner, C.S.S.R, at Dundalk. In Drogheda, Irish hymns exclusively were sung at the Children’s Mass, and the Mayor and Corporation assisted in state at the High Mass at 12 o’clock. In Kilkenny, there were prayers and hymns in Irish, and Father Albert, O.S.F.C., preached in Irish and English. At the national college of Maynooth there were, of course, prayers and hymns and a sermon in the national language and a national concert in the evening. At All Hallows’ College, Dublin, one of the students, Pádraig Ua Mainnín, preached in Irish, Irish prayers were recited, Irish hymns sung, and an Irish concert given in the evening. In Waterford, in Clonmel, in Limerick, in Sligo, in Dundalk, and in a dozen other towns there were great popular demonstrations in which the civic bodies, the national societies, and the schools took part. Dunleary signalised the National Holiday by holding its first Feis.
The exiled Gael vied with the Gael at home in the celebration of Lá Fhéile Pádraig. In Glasgow, as usual, there was an Irish service. In Manchester, Father Dowley preached in Irish at St. Wilfrid’s. In London, the Bishop of Raphoe preached in Irish at St. Patrick’s, Soho, and again at the great celebration in Westminster Cathedral. Here the Archbishop of Westminster presided, Bishop Fenton officiated at Benediction, and the congregation numbered fully 5,000. At least 3,000 more were turned away from the doors for lack of room. Father Ambrose recited the Rosary in Irish, the boys’ choir sang a number of traditional Irish hymns. Dr. O’Donnell’s sermon was a piece of noble and touching eloquence. A dramatic incident in the celebration was the reading in Irish by the Bishop of the Pope’s telegram, in which the Holy Father sent “his blessing to his Irish children at the ceremony in honour of St. Patrick.” The London St. Patrick’s Day Musical Festival was a magnificent success, An Craoibhín’s appearance on the platform being the occasion of a memorable demonstration.
Nor must we, in this hurried chronicle of the doings of the Gael on Lá Fhéile Pádraig, forget the important address on the University Question delivered by the Bishop of Raphoe at the Birmingham celebration. In calling for “a Gaelic University” his Lordship has struck the true note.