By Gus Bode

In response to Kyle Aken’s staff column on March 10, perhaps Mr. Aken should check his sources before engaging in any further analysis of St. Patrick or the Irish in general. As a scholar of Irish heritage, I was appalled at both the lack of factuality in the column and the gross stereotyping of the Irish in which the author engaged. A few key points of fact which could have been easily checked, had the author had the inclination to do so, stand out.

To begin, naming Patrick as British, in its modern sense, is misleading but secondary to the more glaring errors. Patrick did not “bring with him the Christian gospel.” He was in fact part of a mission to minister to extant Catholic communities in Ireland and to prevent the spread of the Pelagian heresies to the Irish. Patrick was not, as Mr. Aken puts it, the “prince of the party,” and given that his feast day is a day of obligation, the carnival atmosphere which he claims is “the true spirit of St. Patrick’s Day” is frankly offensive. Also, Patrick did not necessarily “help the downtrodden Irish,” but in his official life and the surviving documents from the period made use of Irish political systems to further his missions.

Regarding “the hallmark meal of succulent corned beef and crunchy cabbage,” I would suggest Mr. Aken read any of the books written by our own Dr. Charles Fanning, which discuss the arrival of the Irish in America after the Famine. Corned beef was actually adopted from Eastern European immigrants they lived among in New York and along the East coast, as it was available and affordable but is not, in the form we know it, a traditional Irish dish. I would also like to know where the author gets his impressions of Catholicism, as the tone throughout seems to disparage the church, and the question as to why one should spend time “chanting meaningless text from dusty old tomes” is particularly reprehensible.  If it would help, I would gladly send Mr. Aken a short reading list so that he may both broaden his horizons and not make similar errors in the future.


Christopher Flavin

Doctoral Candidate

Department of English