A giant rabbit

One wonders, though not for long, how many Canadians were aware that yesterday was the Feast of Saint Joseph, the Patron Saint of Canada. (Transferred to today, this year, to preserve the Third Sunday in Lent.) Of course, this is also a feast throughout the universal or Catholic Church — of Saint Joseph, Confessor, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also Patron of the Church; model of domestic virtue and humble daily toil; embodiment of “confident docility”; entrusted by God with a difficult and glorious mission: to be a father. Entrusted, by the Father of fathers, to be foster-father to Our Lord. It is a feast of the First Class, in our liturgical calendar. Compare, if you will, the Feast of Saint Patrick on 17th March, which is of the Third Class.

Yesterday I was trapped on the east side of Yonge Street for much of the duration of Greater Parkdale’s annual Saint Patrick’s Parade — moved to the nearest Sunday. It is now a two-hour procession to celebrate pseudo-Irishness, and general multiculturalism. From my station next the window in a coffee shop I first watched circus swordplay and swirling Chinese dragons, then other leprechaun-free displays. But mostly there were stage-Irish demonstrations, such as wee bairns attempting “Lord of the Dance” moves on flatbead truck-trailers. Very sweet.

Canada, both French and English-speaking, is rich in genuine Irish traditions, many deeply religious, and all of which would seem to have been obviated. I have come to believe that dark Guinness was especially brewed to discourage North Americans from adding green food dye.

As recently as my youth, I remember associating the Republic of Ireland with certain Catholic inclinations. Except in the heraldry of the Irish counties — plenty of flags — I was unable to spot a single religious symbol in the long procession. The most “authentic” Irish element was a little cell under the Sinn Fein banner, in moth-eaten uniforms, and poor marching order, accompanied by the crackling audio track of some revolutionary song, with their characteristic mix of sentiment and psychosis. They in turn were trailed by a much larger military pipe band — immaculately drilled, kilted, decorated, and bag-squeezing, bellowing “Scotland the Brave.” Only to me, perhaps, did it appear that the latter were escorting the former to gaol. Then, “The Maple Leaf Forever” to rub it properly in. Then, big green recycling trucks, honking their deafening horns.

The most interesting thing was a giant rabbit. A young lady from the Ontario upcountry had it roadside on a prettily-knitted leash. All passing floats with children were delayed — the kiddies demanding to get a better look. It was a “Great Continental” by breed (a.k.a. “Giant German,” originally “Flemish Giant”). I learnt this by asking her. She was carrying it as a resplendant fur coat, and we exchanged glances (the rabbit and I). It did not look entirely happy. Tired, and world-weary, by only the age of three; unrecompensed by fame. When she put it down it scurried into its vet cage, for safety.

“A meat rabbit,” its mistress frankly explained.