Father Tom's letter to the editor (News-Gazette) in response to "Unofficial"

In my opinion:

March 17th is observed as a holyday in Ireland. It is a day when the Irish go to Mass in honor of their great patron, Saint Patrick. He brought the Christian faith to their ancestors. In Ireland, it is not so much about noisy parades and celebrations that you find in the U.S. It is a time, rather, of holiday and the reunion of family and friends. It is a celebration done with a sense of respect and reverence for the most important person in the history of Ireland.

If our remembrance of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr. were to be observed with a day of binge drinking by young university students, it would rightfully be considered an insult to the memory of two great leaders in the history of our country. And those who revere the memory of these men would be concerned that such a disregard for these great leaders was the work of the educated young men and women.

Unofficial St. Patrick's Day drunkenness shows not only deplorable manners but also a great ignorance about the patron saint of Ireland. Patrick was kidnapped at age 16 from his home in western Briton by Irish raiders and was made to work as a slave in Ireland until he escaped six years later. He was convinced that his sufferings and his escape had taken place for some divine purpose. Driven by a love for the Irish people, Patrick returned many years later to share his Christian faith with them. His return to his oppressors to call them to peaceful acceptance of the gospel is an example of compassion and reconciliation that stands in contrast with the attitude of vengeance that so troubles the world today. St. Patrick is not only the patron saint of the Irish but also of all those who seek peace.

Like Lincoln and King, St. Patrick was a great reconciler. "Getting wasted" trivializes Patrick and it dishonors the Irish people whom he dearly loved. Those who promote "Unofficial" bring shame to the University of Illinois and to our cities. Call it a Spring Drinking Party or Unofficial April Fool's Day, but not a St. Patrick event.