Saint Patrick’s Feast Day has become one of the most celebrated days on the Roman Calendar by Catholics all across the world. The Irish Catholics who emigrated all over the world during the last three centuries have spread the devotion to the Apostle of Ireland far and wide.
But his feast day was not always as widely celebrated as it is today, even in Ireland itself. In the 16th century, the feast of Saint Patrick wasn’t even on the universal calendar of the Church. The reason March 17 is a day where everyone claims to be Irish is because of a 16th century Franciscan priest, Fr. Luke Wadding, OFM.
Fr. Luke Wadding, OFM, was born in Ireland in 1588 to wealthy parents. Upon their death, his older brother sent him to an Irish seminary in Portugal where he was ordained at age 25. After his ordination, his skill and eloquence won him the favor of King Philip III, who selected him to be sent to Rome as part of a delegation.
Once in Rome, Fr. Wadding established a seminary for Irish priests who were forced from their native Ireland because of the oppressive and anti-Catholic English occupation of their country. While there he was known to keep the feast of Saint Patrick with great solemnity. As his influence grew in Rome, he was placed on commission for the reform of the Breviary. Using his influence on the commission, he was able to have Saint Patrick’s feast day inserted into the calendar on March 17th.
In addition to his work on behalf of Saint Patrick’s feast day, Fr. Wadding also helped organize resistance to the English occupation, and even reportedly received votes to become pope during the papal conclaves of 1644 and 1655. He went to his reward on Nov. 18, 1657. Fr. Wadding is a great example of the impact that the Franciscans have had on the Church throughout the centuries.