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In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Vatican strove to formalize the writings and practices of the Christian church, and thus began the ascent of St. Patrick to international celebrity. When Pope Sixtus V published the first comprehensive list of saints in 1588, it included Patrick, despite his never being canonized. That was not unusual, as the canonization process was adopted hundreds of years after Patrick's death.
Another focus for Vatican reform efforts was the breviary, which comprised the daily prayers to be recited by members of the Church's religious orders.
Due to the increasing number of saints and the Masses accorded to them, the correct recital of the necessary daily prayers became an ever-more complicated task. In 1629, Pope Urban VIII appointed Wadding to a commission to reform the unwieldy breviary. During this process, Patrick Comerford, bishop of Waterford, wrote to Wadding, stressing the importance of including St. Patrick in any new list of feast days accorded to saints. Comerford wrote, "for your life … endeavour that at least a semi double (a type of feast day) be accorded to St. Patrick."
With the Church's recognition of March 17 as the feast of the patron saint of Ireland, the date became a day of obligation for Irish Catholics, meaning that they became obliged to attend Mass that day, a requirement that continues. In fact, until 1961, pubs in Ireland were obliged to close every St. Patrick's Day.
Throughout Wadding's life, he declined opportunities for promotion, repeatedly spurning offers to become a bishop. Indeed, the rebel generals who had fought to defend the faith in Ireland wrote to the Vatican requesting his advancement, but Wadding intercepted the letter. There is even speculation that Wadding received votes during the papal elections of 1644 and 1655. Throughout his life, he believed that he could best serve his faith and his homeland as a humble friar.
In 1903, Wadding's hometown became the first city to declare St. Patrick's Day a public holiday. Wadding is remembered in Waterford with a statue and a street that bears his name. He is also the namesake for the library at the Waterford Institute of Technology.
Meanwhile, the faithful in those long green lines parading through cities and hamlets, large and small, far and wide, can be forgiven if they believe they get their marching orders from St. Patrick. The modest Port Lairge friar, Luke Wadding, OFM, would prefer it that way. WGT
Read Part 1: Luke
James Doherty is a Waterford-based writer who focuses on the preservation of the history of the Irish worldwide.
This feature was edited by Gerry Regan and Liam Murphy, and produced by Joe Gannon.
© 2011 by James Doherty and GAR Media LLC. This article may not be
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Copyright © 2011, GAR Media.