Hail Glorious St Patrick (x 2)

Published in Issue 2 (Mar/Apr 2008), News, Pre-Norman History, Volume 16

Stone calendar for calculating Easter (Archdiocese Museum, Ravenna)

Stone calendar for calculating Easter (Archdiocese Museum, Ravenna)

In the 1940s Myles na gCopaleen in his ‘Crushkeen Lawn’ column in the Irish Times denounced de Valera for wasting taxpayers’ money on the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, whose only purpose, claimed Myles, was to prove that there was no God and two St Patricks. What had provoked his ire were two lectures: one by physicist Erwin Schrodinger, suggesting that quantum physics rendered the concept of primum mobile (‘first cause’, i.e. God) redundant, and the other by a Patrician scholar who claimed that the ubiquity of our national saint suggested that there was more than one of him. What would Myles have made of two St Patrick’s Days in 2008?
This has arisen from the fact that Easter Sunday is a moveable feast (it can be as early as 22 March or as late as 25 April) calculated by a combination of the Jewish lunar calendar and the Roman solar calendar set by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. This year Easter Sunday falls on 23 March. In the Christian churches’ calendar, nothing displaces the liturgical celebration of Holy Week before Easter or Easter Week after it, and other liturgical celebrations must make way. Thus, since 17 March falls on the Monday of Holy Week, St Patrick’s Day moves forward to Saturday 15 March. But has anyone noticed? By the time you read this, the traditional St Patrick’s Day activities—parades, ‘drowning the shamrock’, etc.—will have already taken place on Monday 17 March. Myles, if he was still around, would surely have had something to say about that. But don’t worry—it won’t happen again until 2160.

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