As we approach the annual St Patrick’s Day, the world will celebrate being Irish for 24 hours but many of these traditions have no bearing on the reality of Patrick and his legacy for us.
St. Patrick was born in Britain, not Ireland, to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century and is believed to have died on March 17th, around 460 A.D. Until the 1700s, St. Patrick’s Day was a Catholic feast observed only in Ireland. This started to change when Irish immigrants living in the United States began organising parades and other events on March 17th as a show of pride in their Irish heritage. For many people around the world, St. Patrick’s Day has evolved into a secular nod to Irish culture, characterised by parties, music, food and drink.
However, we would do well to keep in mind the real lessons from the saint.
Following in the Footsteps of St. Patrick
Saint Patrick is a hero, whose brave witness and tireless efforts changed Ireland from a pagan to a Christian country. As such he is a beacon of light for us all to this day. Patrick spent many solitary years in Ireland turning to God in prayer. He believed that God was on his side during his saddest and most trying times. This St Patrick’s Day, take time thinking of the debt we owe him. It might help to reflect on this great saint by visiting the shrine to him in the Cathedral at the left-hand side of the altar. Masses will be held in all of our churches on St Patrick’s Day – at 10.30am in the Cathedral (in Irish), St Mary’s and St Joseph’s, Sheeptown, at 8.00am, 9,30am, 11,00am and 12.30pm in St Catherine’s and at 7.30pm in St Brigid’s.
Being Irish is a state of mind, heart and soul
St Patrick probably wore blue rather than green but the ‘forty shades of green’ of our landscape have influenced this change and in the commemoration of being Irish, public buildings across the world are decked out in green for the 17th March. Our patron saint wasn’t even from here but like so many since settled in Ireland and redefined our Irishness. Initially we didn’t welcome Patrick well to our shores as he was brought here as a slave but he returned to Ireland after a dream where God told him to help bring Christianity to our shores. Since the time of Patrick, Irish people have been welcomed into many countries where they have made their home. In recent years many different nationalities have arrived here for asylum and to feel safe. We need to open our hearts to immigrants in the same way we were welcomed to countries all over the world. Traditionally we are a nation with a good heart and soul and I hope that we continue to be.
Handing on the faith
St Patrick was a real missionary, converting many people to Christianity and starting the islands fame for being one of ‘saints and scholars’. Patrick preached and converted all over Ireland for 40 years. His sense of mission brought us faith and hope. He overcame many challenges to convert Irish people, believing that God watched over him saying, ‘ He protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son’.
Patrick even left us with a distinctive Irish Cross – the Celtic Cross, finding that many of the pagans worshiped the sun, he incorporated the sun into the Cross.
The Saint shows us the example of great forgiveness. Even after being kidnapped and held in slavery, he was willing to return to Ireland and witness to the people who had enslaved him during his youth. His life reveals what it means to follow God’s calling faithfully. He was a person of true faith with a total belief in God.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left, In his final lesson to us, Patrick displays how just one person of courage and faith can change the world. In fact, almost two thousand years later we are still remembering him as doing just that. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.