Green Beer and Gender Advocacy
Yesterday the world celebrated the life of St. Patrick. If you celebrated like we did in our house, you did so by dodging pinches and devising a complex and borderline inhumane leprechaun trap. But, I digress…
You’ve probably never heard of Eamon Gilmore, but he is Ireland’s #2 politician. He serves as the country’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister. Basically, the brother does a lot of ministering!
Eamon Gilmore was in the news this week for refusing to attend Savannah, Georgia’s St. Patrick’s day celebration. Why? Because there was an event that was only open to men. Here’s what Gilmore had to say:
“Count me out – I’m not doing it,” Gilmore told an Irish newspaper. “I don’t believe in segregation either on a gender basis or on any other basis.”
Good on you Eamon. Way to live up to your patron saints’ example.
By all accounts, St. Patrick is a person worth emulating. Kidnapped as a teenage boy from Britain and taken to Ireland, Patrick spent six years as a shepherd and learned Irish language and culture. At some point, he managed to escape and he returned home to his family.
Then, as the story goes, he was called by God to return to Ireland. Here’s his account of that moment:
“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.'”
And so Patrick went. And, through him, Christianity came to the Irish.
In his book How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill describes Patrick’s ministry this way:
“In becoming an Irishman, Patrick wedded his world to theirs, his faith to their life…Patrick found a way of swimming down to the depths of the Irish psyche and warming and transforming Irish imagination – making it more humane and more noble while keeping it Irish.”
One particular aspect of Patrick’s story worth noting is his positive treatment of women. In her post about Patrick, Anita McSorley describes it this way:
“Women find a great advocate in Patrick….Patrick’s Confession speaks of women as individuals. Cahill points out, for example, Patrick’s account of “a blessed woman, Irish by birth, noble, extraordinarily beautiful—a true adult—whom I baptized.” Elsewhere, he lauds the strength and courage of Irish women: ‘But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most—and who keep their spirits up despite the menacing and terrorizing they must endure. The Lord gives grace to his many handmaids; and though they are forbidden to do so, they follow him with backbone.’ He is actually the first male Christian since Jesus, Cahill says, to speak well of women.”
These things may not seem like much, but let’s not forget that Patrick would have been a contemporary with Augustine. You know Augustine, a man who, in the middle of saying lots of amazing things about the faith, also laid several misogynistic rhetorical eggs such as:
“I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation. If woman was not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?” (De genesi ad litteram, 9, 5-9)
So, on this morning after St. Patrick’s, I’m raising a glass of green beer to two men who advocated for women. Eamon and Patrick, well done!