Monday, March 16, 2015

Oh, Patrick...

March 17 is one of the days on the calendar that has always been lost on me. Whether we're thinking of Saint Patrick or "St. Paddy's Day," this great celebration of Ireland and Irish heritage has never really resonated with me...

I suppose, the starting point would be a consideration of who the real Patrick was:

Patrick was born about the year 389 in Britain. At age sixteen he was kidnapped and taken as a captive into Ireland where he served as a herdsman. Despite the harshness of this life, Patrick retained his Christian faith and used his solitude as an opportunity for prayer and meditation. After six years Patrick escaped captivity and returned to England. In a dream, however, he was urged to return and evangelize the people of Ireland. In preparation for his work, Patrick studied at the monastery at LĂ©rins. He was ordained by Saint Amator in 417.   
 
 

In 431, Patrick was sent to assist Saint Palladius in Ireland, and he was eventually consecrated bishop by Saint Germain in 432. Traveling throughout Ireland, he worked to spread the Christian Faith and succeeded in converting several members of the royal family. On a visit to Rome in 442, he was commissioned by Pope Saint Leo the Great to organize the Church in Ireland, and on his return he made Armagh the Primatial See and established other dioceses through the country. After living a life dedicated to the evangelization of his adopted nation, Saint Patrick died on March 17, 461, in the Ulster Monastery of Saul.

Despite my misgivings and regardless of whether we might be Irish by heritage or Irish-in-spirit, Saint Patrick remains a timeless role model for every Christian. His story reminds us that our individual vocation is unique and can lead us to places and ministries we might never have chosen for ourselves. If March 17th is to truly make sense for us as people of faith (especially within the context of Lent), we have to take a cue from St. John Paul II: "Remember Saint Patrick. Remember what the fidelity of just one man has meant for Ireland and the world. Yes... fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his word makes all the difference in the world. Let us therefore look up to Jesus, who is for all time the Faithful Witness of the Father" (Message to Seminarians at St. Patirck's College in Maynooth, Ireland, October 1, 1979). May the life and witness of Saint Patrick continue to inspire each of us in our missionary vocation.

A prayer in honor of Saint Patrick +
O God, who chose the Bishop Saint Patrick to preach your glory to the peoples of Ireland, grant, through his merits and intercession, that those who glory in the name of Christian may never cease to proclaim your wondrous deeds to all. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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