This article was written 6 years ago! Not much has changed since then, other than the condos across the street are full, Latitude’s is gone, but we’ve got Red Shack Tacos and Burritos coming in this month (yea!), and Jim from Seamus’ has gone on to be with Joe… . But it is still fun and tomorrow, we’ve got some volunteers from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Greenville, IL coming to help. Please pray for a great day playing St. Patrick, and sharing the gospel with the Irish!
When I first moved to the little village of Dogtown in the early 90’s, I remember remarking that it was like living in Mayberry, but in the city. We had Emmett’s Fix-it Shop (Lehman’s Hardware, a hundred-year-old store with rickety wooden floors and shelves packed with things everyone needed), we had Floyd’s Barber Shop (though our barber used considerably more colorful language than Floyd did), and we had our own grocer (Gewinner’s) which was better than Art Crowley’s, because they had a great deli, with BBQ twice a week. Our drug store was run by a Jewish guy named Gene, and though he wasn’t as cute as Ellie Walker, he had a great store. We even had a police sub-station here with a beat cop. And while he didn’t strut down the street like Barney Fife (with that great Barney theme music), we all felt safe.
Since then, Ellie’s pharmacy is gone (Gene retired to Chicago), Emmett’s and Floyd’s have been torn down and replaced by a behemoth condo complex with ground floor retail stores. (They must be too expensive, but I’d sure like to see a hardware store move in there!) Fortunately, “Floyd’s” daughter re-opened the barbershop across the street, and Roger’s place is still a great place for the ladies to get their hair done at Headstrong (Roger is a believer, and a friend of our ministry). But, the grocer is gone, and that building remains vacant too. (If someone from Schnuck’s is reading this…what a great place for a little market!) The city took away our sub-station and beat cop, and somehow the Mayberry-esque quality of Dogtown is somewhat diminished.
But, Dogtown has another side. Just like a little Irish village, Dogtown is anchored by a big Catholic church and an Irish pub. (Seamus McDaniel’s is run by Jim & Sue, also believers,and also friends of our ministry…I hope you’ll visit them too.) Dogtown has a decidely Irish feel, though is pretty multi-cultural, with many Jewish people and an interesting Jewish history (the Jewish orphan home and the original site of the Jewish hospital was in Dogtown). We also are still known for a number of really good restaurants, the latest of which is Latitude 26, a good Tex-Mex place. And, while Mayberry had their Founders’ Day celebration, Dogtown celebrates St.Patrick’s Day with quite a parade and a street party. But St. Patrick’s Day in Dogtown doesn’t look anything like Mayberry!
This is my first St. Patrick’s Day since my friend Joe passed away. (If you want to know more about Joe, read the September, 2009 prayer letter.) Joe was a force of nature on St. Patrick’s Day. Joe really disliked the celebration here in Dogtown. While he liked the parade, and thought it was good for the neighborhood and a nice family event, it was the “drunken street party” afterwards that he so strenuously objected to. He didn’t like the blocked streets, the public urination, and the obscene amount of trash in the neighborhood that follows the party.
For myself, while I don’t like some of these same things, I saw this as a good opportunity to share the Gospel with a lot of people. We hand out Gospel tracts (Joe even handed some out last year!), we give away Bibles, and talk to a lot of people on St. Patrick’s Day. The craziness is right outside of our door. So I tried to console Joe with a tired platitude, “It’s only one day, Joe.” And I guess we should be grateful that it’s not quite as bad as the Mardi Gras parade in Soulard. (Though one year someone set up a hot-tub with scantily-clad women in the tub. I’m not sure what they were advertising, but they’ve never been back since.)
I was never sure where St. Patrick’s Day got the reputation for being a drinking holiday. I’ve always been interested in St. Patrick, and in Ireland in general. Part of my family hails from Clan McLeod, and my wife is a Forsyth. So we each have our own tartan, I’ve got bagpipes (which I can blow into but make no music come forth…does anyone?), and love Celtic music. There are a lot of famous Irish/Jewish Americans (Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, Michael Landon, Harrison Ford, and Jennifer Connelly to name a few), and two of the most famous Irish Jews are Chaim Herzog, and Robert Briscoe. Herzog was the son of the Chief Rabbi of Ireland and became the President of Israel. Robert Briscoe was the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin and had an important role in the fight for Irish independence. So having a Jewish ministry in an Irish village always made sense to me! But I am not a big drinker and party animal. Before I came to faith, St. Patrick’s Day was a good day to go to the pub and have an Irish coffee and sing a ballad or two. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to having a “wee dram” occasionally, and we all know how much Lutherans like their beer. But the kind of party that St. Patrick’s Day seems to spawn has always been a mystery to me. But recently, I did run across a legend of St. Patrick that seems to explain this phenomenon.
As the story goes, St. Patrick was once served a whiskey that was far less than full. St. Patrick then took it upon himself to teach the innkeeper a lesson in generosity. He told the innkeeper that there was a demon in his cellar that fed off of dishonesty. If he wanted to get rid of said demon, he must change his ways!
Some time later, St. Patrick returned to find the innkeeper filling the customer’s glasses to overflowing. He took the innkeeper to the cellar and found the demon weakened and shriveled up from the innkeeper’s generosity. St. Patrick then banished the demon from the cellar, proclaiming thereafter that everyone should have a drink on his feast day.
Legends being what they are, you can take it or leave it. But St. Patrick is no legend. Patrick, a Welshman, was captured by Irish raiders when he was 16 years old, and was made a slave. 6 years later, he escaped, came home, and became a priest. Following a vision, he returned to Ireland, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with that nation and is responsible for the legacy of faith that Ireland has.
So now I like to share the real story behind St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve written a couple of gospel tracts that we print in green and hand out by the thousands on St. Patrick’s Day. And of course, when we are all done, there’s a pint of Guinness waiting! After all, I like legendary stories as much as the next guy.