March 17th is the celebration of St Patrick's Day which is the national Irish holiday. It is an occasion when we commemorate firstly the memory of the man who brought the Christian Faith to the Emerald Isle in 432AD and also a celebration of what is good and great about us as a people and a country in culture, song, language and other fields of life.
Irish College Chapel Rome
St Patrick's Day gains in significance while you are away overseas, a day of sadness for being far from kith and kin, but also of joy and pride in being from a little isle on the verge of the mighty Atlantic which, has in its own small way, has contributed to the betterment of society and our world in general through art, music, song, literature, science, peacekeeping under the UN flag, our many NGO's and volunteers, and of course the contribution of our missionaries to the development in many parts of the world in education, health care and the promotion of human rights in the course of spreading the gospel and witnessing to their faith.
We remember all of our diaspora fondly and as we pause in prayer or raise a glass in honour of St Patrick, from our hearts, we wish them all a very Happy St Patrick's Day from the Emerald Isle!
But like so many Christian feasts, St Patrick’s Day has been somewhat hijacked. St Patrick has about as much to do with a pint of Guinness as St Valentine has to do with a box of chocolates and a romantic meal for two. But what does this saint, so strong in missionary zeal and about whom we know very little, have to do with our modern day celebrations?
The answer comes from the Confessio itself.
In the very opening paragraphs of the autobiography, St Patrick offers a meditation on the gift of faith and the praise that we owe in return to God for such a gift. Perhaps this is St Patrick’s greatest relevance, particularly in a culture that seems increasingly hostile to declarations of faith. He refuses to stay quiet; his evangelising zeal comes from knowing that he must speak to others of Christ:
“That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.”
Enjoy the celebrations of St Patrick’s Day, but remember Christ’s call to conversion in your life; a call to conversion and change that St Patrick felt so strongly that he left behind everything he had and followed Jesus so that he might bring the gospel to others.
Archbishop Eamon Martin’s message for Saint Patrick’s Day 2017
OSV - The real St. Patrick More fascinating than his legends
CNS - Irish archbishop: St. Patrick was an ‘undocumented migrant’
CH - Russian Orthodox Church adds St Patrick to its calendar
St Patrick's Day 2017: Meet the sober Dubliners celebrating Ireland's patron saint without a Guinness
Fr Michael Liston introduces St. Patrick as someone who suffered a lot in his youth, but in the middle of all his suffering, he became conscious of God's presence and love. Fr. Micheal encouraged us to set aside the external celebrations of St. Patrick's day to look at the model of St. Patrick as someone who had discovered the mysterious presence of God in his life. We are invited to reflect on the reality that God is here with us as He was for Patrick. God is fond of us. God has time for us. St. Patrick is also a great model of how we should respond to God's grace in our lives. Patrick recognised his own limitations and the abundance of God's grace working in his life. Fr. Micheal invited us to confess, as Patrick did, that with all our limitations, it is God who has done this good work in our lives. Patrick gives glory to God, because the glory is God's. God has a sheer ghrá (affection/love) for us and we are called through prayer and humility to imitate Patrick by responding to God's grace and love with a spirit of self-giving and gratitude. This is the true spirit of Patrick.
At the inauguration of Uachtárain na h-Éireann (President of Ireland) Michael D. Higgins one of the pieces of music performed by Rita Connolly was the "The Deer's Cry" which is St Patrick's Breastplate arranged by Shaun Davy: