St. Patty’s feast is on

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 17, 2006

By Adam Hammer, Tribune features reporter

Lenten rules prohibit Roman Catholics from eating meat on Fridays to observe the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Today, the Archdiocese of Winona is lifting the rule for one day in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

&8220;It’s granted as a celebration of St. Patrick’s Day,&8221; Father James Berning of St. Theodore’s Catholic Church in Albert Lea said. &8220;Some of our church is Irish or of Irish heritage, but it involves everybody.&8221;

Bishop Bernard Harrington of the Diocese of Winona granted the dispensation for area Catholics, including members of St. Theodore’s, that allows them to eat meat today.

Harrington is among dozens of other bishops across the country &045; from Albert Lea to Green Bay, Wis., to Boston &045; to grant a dispensation.

Local bishops have the authority to allow Catholics in his diocese to forgo the traditional abstinence of meat on Fridays or other rules of Lent, said Bill Ryan, spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

There are nearly 200 diocese in the United States. At least 80 of them had granted such dispensations as of Tuesday, said Rocco Palmo, a Catholic commentator, who has been keeping an informal count on his blog, &8220;Whispers in the Loggia.&8221;

There are some who have not granted dispensations, such as Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Diocese of Pittsburgh.

According to a note regarding St. Patrick’s Day posted on the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Web site, &8220;When St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday of Lent, as is the case this year, we need to remember that the saint’s feast is not considered reason for dispensation from the rule of abstinence.&8221;

This isn’t the first time a dispensation has been granted in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Many bishops offered the same deal in 2000 when the holiday fell on a Friday during Lent.

Berning remembers being granted a dispensation prior to 200 when he was a student in Philadelphia.

Many Catholics are rooted in Irish heritage, much like Harrington whose parents were Irish immigrants from Bantry Bay, County Cork.

&8220;We always celebrate St. Patrick’s Day,&8221; Berning said, &8220;of course this parish has roots from Ireland.&8221;

The dispensation comes in part from Irish traditions and celebrations that involve feasts with dishes such as corned beef.

The connection between corned beef and Ireland dates to colonial times in Boston, when meat was imported from Ireland and preserved in salt. The result &045; corned beef &045; was associated with Ireland.

This year, Berning plans to take advantage of the dispensation by having pasolli &045; a Spanish soup with beef a noodles &045; with friends. He also plans to remember the day with some form of special religious observance, such as prayer or almsgiving, as is recommended by the Diocese.

St. Patrick was born in Scotland in 389 B.C. His Irish connection comes from his days as a missionary in Ireland. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Over the years, the celebration of St. Patrick has come to be associated with everything Irish. Many bars and restaurants, such as the Green Mill, are known to get in on the holiday by serving green beer or corned beef dishes.

This year’s Green Mill celebration started early with St. Patrick’s Day specials that started on Monday. Their Irish eats continue through today with mulligan stew, corned beef sandwiches and corned beef and cabbage.

To those who celebrate its intended meaning, St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day for spiritual

renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.

&8220;There are two kinds of people in the world &045; Irish and those who would like to be Irish,&8221; Berning, citing a popular adage, said.

(Contact Adam Hammer at or 379-3439.)