St. Patrick's Day is always a holiday celebrated across America, and especially by the 32 million US citizens of Irish heritage. Sometimes, however, the calendar and religious conviction are in a conundrum with the timing of the celebration. This year is such a situation, with the March 17 day of celebration falling on a Lenten Friday. With green already flowing along the waterways and through the wardrobes from Boston and Chicago to Savannah, GA, the celebration is certain to go forth, and many Catholic dioceses are granting special dispensations to allow their faithful to consume meat on this particular Friday, so consider a corned beef sandwich as a blessing on this sainted day.

Not just about the green

Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died on March 17, 461. Adversity assailed the young man, as he was captured by Irish pirates barely in his teens. He was not released until his 20's, and experienced a divine vision that “freedom lies on the coast,” so he escaped to Britain. He ultimately was reunited with his British home and his family, and continued his studies to become an ordained Bishop. Patrick had another epiphany under a vision of a man called victorious, who offered a letter to the zealous leader. Patrick heard the voices of the Irish people calling him through the page.

There are many versions of his life in Ireland, but no dispute about the many churches he established, and the faith planted through the witness of his life.

He kept his servant demeanor, and conveyed faith as a part of one's lifestyle, not just a ritual of idol worship and “unclean” contamination. Many children know stories of him banishing snakes from his country, and of his walking stick growing into a tree. Those are part of legend, but the facts show a quiet, devout life. Patrick used the symbol of the Shamrock to teach about the holy Trinity, while many Christians today expand that symbolism to include faith, hope, and love.

Steak knives and sandwiches allowed

Lent is observed as a time of reflection, prayer, and sacrifice leading into Easter. Traditionally, Catholics abstain from meat on any Lenten Friday, but many dioceses have issued dispensations, including Boston, Chicago, and many others, including most from Tennessee to Mid-America, have granted permission to enjoy meat on the patron saint’s feast day.

Websites for the individual dioceses will have information posted regarding the dispensations.

Faithful Catholics may substitute one of the following acts for carnivorous indulgence on this occasion -- attendance at Holy Mass, the recitation of the Rosary for the intention of peace in the world, or by performing one of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy.

Avocados and lettuce are all well and good, part of God’s bounty, but they also make lovely compliments to a sandwich on an already festive day. One Bishop from the Ft. Wayne area, Kevin Roades, reminds that the intent of the dispensations is to “preserve the penitential spirit of a Lenten Friday,” but allow for celebration of the revered saint in a “spiritual manner and not merely in a secular context.”

Catholics can count their blessings with freedom to consume on this particular St. Patrick's Day.