This is not a myth. My story is not legend. In fact, it is a cold hard fact that is backed up with unassailable proof in the form of a YouTube video. What I am about to share may shock you — in fact, some may think this story living proof of the dogged spirit of St. Patrick alive and well in Celtic New England. Before I get ahead of myself and explain exactly what happened, let’s first review our St. Patrick history.
We all know St. Patrick was from Ireland. He was a bishop, carried a staff, and according to many pictures, he wore green. Aside from being a popular Catholic saint across the world, legend has it that he was a talented exterminator. Yes, our beloved bishop banished all snakes from Ireland. According to the legend of Wikipedia, “St. Patrick [chased] them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill.”
Here’s where I come in. As a child of Irish Americans growing up in a largely Irish enclave, this story truly resonated with me. In personal Irish lore, it was more iconic than finding a four-leaf clover or determining if I could ride my bike safely to the end of an ephemeral rainbow. I bought Lucky Charms when I could and invoked the power of St. Patrick to protect my teeth from their sugary powers. Many young Catholics choose their favorite saints and aspire to do what they did. Sometimes we can seek out these opportunities. Sometimes, we just get lucky.
It was a typical workday like any other. I was sitting at my computer poring through emails when I overheard my colleague’s phone conversation — it was my boss calling and I could tell there was trouble. I knew my boss had taken the day off to meet some contractors at his house; all I overheard from my colleague was: “There’s a what? You need help? Are you joking?”
Naturally curious (and a bit nosy) I couldn’t resist leaping to my feet and running into my colleague’s office, wondering what was going on and if I could help. “There’s a snake in Mike’s basement closet — and he’s terrified of snakes. He’s barricaded the closet and the snake needs to be…”
“Banished! He needs the snake banished!” I thought to myself. And who better to banish the snake than a lifelong St. Patrick groupie who may in fact get a chance to banish all serpents, not from the country of Ireland, but from a barricaded basement closet in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Truly, the stuff of legend. We took our lunch break early and went to go rescue our boss.
There’s a part of me that wants to take you through that search and rescue expedition to my boss’s basement, share details of the duck tape quarantine system and my bravery in the face of a slithery stealthy serpent. I’m tempted to tell the story as I recall it and the harrowing decisions that are woven with my memories of that day. Yet, memories and objective YouTube videos can differ — and in this case, do. As you’ll see below, living out the heroics of your favorite saint in real life tends to take a different form than that which you learned in your childhood book of saints:
Perhaps if YouTube had existed in the 5th century, St. Patrick, too, would have been caught wailing like a banshee as the first snake was tossed over the fence. Likely not, but then again I’m not a saint; yet that hasn’t stopped me from trying. Not only did this experience bring me closer to my colleagues (and the unwanted reptile squatter); it also brought me closer to St. Patrick — not what is fact or fiction, but the message of the story and the collective works and deeds associated with the individual.
It is very possible that I have actually banished more snakes in my lifetime than Saint Patrick. Yet who’s counting snakes at St. Peter’s gate?