Sunday, March 18, 2018

Feast of St Patrick 2018

I have for the past years begun my day with an act of thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for me beginning with creating me and then calling me to be a Catholic Christian, one who has the Faith and is in the Church established by Christ Himself.  He did this by giving me parents who shared that Faith with me.  I am sure you could all say the same.
            Where did they get this Faith?  From their parents and their priests.  They in turn got it from the generations before going right back to Patrick and the first Christians to come to Ireland over fifteen hundred years ago.  They were not Irish.  They were foreigners but they adopted Ireland and gifted us with the Catholic Faith.  Where did they get it?  They got it from the generations before them who got it from Peter and the Apostles who got it from Christ Himself.
            That's what this day is really about.  Being Irish is nothing if it is without the supreme blessing of being Catholic.  Better that we cease to be Irish than we cease to be Catholic.  Better that our culture, language, music, art and all that makes us Irish were lost than we lose the Catholic Faith.  Patrick did not come here to tell us how wonderful we were but to enlighten us and save us with the Catholic Faith.  If we lose that Faith we lose everything.  Our Faith brings us into full communion with the Most Holy Trinity and in that union nothing is lost but it is sanctified and saved.  In that communion we become who we were made to be.
            Is it not amazing that when St Anthony’s relics came here a few years ago people were queuing out the main door of this church around the corner, right down the lane onto the South Mall and a fair ways down that street for hours just to venerate his relics.  It is sometimes debated among the friars whether St Pio would get as much attention or more.  How come we do not venerate our own as much?
How many Irish people have actually read the Confessio or the Letter to Coroticus?  These are among the oldest documents in our nation, a testimony to the work of Patrick and the first Catholic Christians here in Ireland.  The Welsh have their own St. David but the Scots must make do with St Andrew the Apostle, while the English have only a Syrian, St George, for a patron. (Perhaps they couldn’t find an Englishman holy enough).  None of them left a written record of their lives, their faith and their efforts on behalf of the Kingdom of God but Patrick did for us.
Patrick came from Britain but that does not make him English.   The English arrived much later.  Patrick was but a Briton, related either to the Welsh or the Scots, a Celt like ourselves.  Though, as he refers to himself as Irish in the Letter to Coroticus, it is also possible that he came of Irish people living in Britain.  Whatever his origins he came here first under duress as a teenager, suffered enslavement and harsh treatment, and later escaped back to Britain via France. 
Having become a monk and received Holy Orders he felt the call to return to our ancestors and eventually he returned with the Catholic faith.  He did not come alone but brought religious and clergy with him.  The time was right for our Irish ancestors were ready to abandon their paganism.  It is one of the great success stories of the Church and has brought great blessings on the world.  It was in Ireland, centuries later, that the intellectual tradition of the ancient world was preserved and it was from Ireland that Europe was re-conquered for Christ.  It was Irish monks and nuns who carried the Faith back into Britain and across Europe.  Irish slaves also carried their faith with them into Scandinavia, as later generations brought it throughout the British Empire and beyond.  
Patrick laboured here until he died laying the foundations of the Irish Church and despite the ravages and scandals of history is still here today.  There are those who foretell her end and see a day coming when there will be little or no Catholic Church in Ireland.  They do not know the power of God nor how He works.  The Faith will not die out here because it was planted by the grace of God and nourished by many saints and martyrs.
That does not mean that the Irish Church and Irish Catholics will not suffer.  If you read the accounts of the lives of the saints you will know that suffering is part of the battle for holiness.   On such a feast as this, when many of our fellow country men and women are devoted solely to merriment and even debauchery, drunkenness and self-indulgence, we as Catholic Christians must recommit ourselves to the fight for the Faith in Ireland.  Let us fan into a flame the gift that God has given us, supplying our faith with the oxygen of good deeds and the fuel of prayer, and return to the path laid out for us by Patrick.

I urge you to get a copy of St Patrick’s Confessio and take the time to read it.  You can get it free online!  Rediscover what he did for us, what he handed on to our ancestors and they in turn handed on to us and recommit yourself to doing it for others.  Strive to hand on what you received from the generations before and the Lord Himself will bless the work. 

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