Today at morning mass a gentleman was dressed in a green shirt, green jacket and a sequined oversize green bow tie. Apparently he was headed to a St. Patrick's Day celebration. Sunday there will be a parade in St. Patrick's honor in Toronto; on Sunday evening the Canadian History channel (if I am not mistaken) will air a special called "Death or Canada." It tells the story of just one year of Irish immigration to Toronto--1847. It was a sad reality for thousands of Irish: either die of famine, or immigrate to North America.
An article I read several months ago told the story of Irish children whose parents had died aboard "coffin" ships moored in Montreal's harbor. There were scores of orphans alone in a strange country and ignorant of the language. At a Sunday Mass the children filled the front pews of the Cathedral. At the end of Mass the doors were closed. The Bishop told the people that the children needed homes. The parishioners were asked not to go home until each child also had a home. From then on many "French Canadians" were really Irish immigrants taken in and adopted by French speaking Canadians. One set of brother and sister began to cry when they were being separated. The couple who had chosen the boy, figuring he would be an asset on their farm, took in his sister. At their death, the couple who had raised the two orphans, left them both all of their property. Only God knows how many times similar stories were repeated as waves of immigrants spilled onto Canadian shores.
In Toronto, the area around the Basilica of St. Paul at Queen and Power was the site of many Irish immigrants whose sacrifices built the original church on that site.
I am of Irish descent. It was instilled in us that the Faith was our most important heritage. Thanks to St. Patrick for the gift he brought to the Emerald isle and to so many parts of our world because of his perseverance.
May St. Patrick pray for all of us!