Archbishop Michael and all the staff at Archbishop’s House wish you a very happy St. Patrick’s day.
Beannachtaí an féile agus go mbeirimid beo an t-am seo arís.
HOMILY FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY 2016.
As we celebrate the Feast of our national Patron we remember particularly our exiles in cities around the globe, Boston, Bermingham, London, New York, Sydney, Perth and many other places. St. Patrick himself was an exile and an outsider. In his letter to Coroticus he stated “it is therefore, for love of God that I live as an outsider and an exile among barbarous tribes. Yet as we read through his writings we recognise the way in which he won his way into the hearts of our people.
You are very familiar with the story of St. Patrick, his capture and coming to Ireland as a slave. As we read his confession we get an insight into a man who was strong, courageous, deeply dedicated to Jesus Christ; a person not easily defeated or discouraged. He had a strong sense of fare-play, and his tolerance and kindness won the hearts of many. He was instrumental in bringing about many changes in attitude and in conduct. He led the people from paganism to the gospel. Missionaries like St. Colmcille, St. Columbanus and St. Gall were inspired by him years later and spread the message of Jesus Christ far and wide.
Patrick’s methods were straight forward and uncomplicated. He travelled throughout the land, making contact with various kings and chieftains as he converted them to the faith. These in turn influenced other chieftains. As with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul there was a sense of urgency about Patrick’s ministry. Utterly confident in the Lord, he journeyed far and wide, baptising and confirming with untiring zeal.
Central to his missionary activity, he claimed was “the role of the Holy Spirit”. It was the Holy Spirit, he said, who talking within him held him together during his Irish captivity and brought him back to Ireland, stood by him when others opposed him.
What Patrick did in Ireland other missionaries did in other places: St. Peter in Rome, Paul in the entire Mediterranean region. In the past he was common to describe Patrick as in his own words an unlettered man. However today it is a reassessment of that verdict. Reading his Confessions it is now acknowledged that he was very much in touch with the great writers of the Church Fathers at the time. Patrick’s theology and his preaching emanated from his personal experience of Jesus Christ, his mission to Ireland and the needs of the Irish people.
Today, Patrick’s task continues even in our nominally Christian world, there are many who are denied or deprived of their human worth. Their identity as a child of God is ignored. Our society tolerates and often rationalises the dehumanisation of individuals and whole groups. In St. Patrick’s writings we are provided with the Christian vision of human worth. Today, Christian consciences are asked to accept society’s ability to put a measure on the quality of an individual human life. The excuse of limited resources is used to hide the unequal provision of healthcare, education and employment. Violence and vulgarity are not strangers now to Irish society. It is not yet too late to revive Patrick’s vision of the individual worth of each person. The spirit of Patrick is needed in our land today. There is marked drift away from a religious understanding of life, and towards a purely materialistic concept of what our earthly goals should be, something which accompanies the collapse of many great civilisations in history.
With growing problems of alcohol and drug abuse, violence – in particular against the defenceless and the elderly – crime, the collapse of marriage and family ties. To counter such we could well copy St. Patrick’s belief in the power of prayer. Belief that brought him inner freedom, dedication to the call of God and trust in the active presence of the Holy Spirit. In an age which prefers action to adoration and protest to prayer, it might worth remembering that Patrick was above all a man of prayer.
I hope that you all have a very happy St. Patrick’s Day. Beannachtaí na Féile oraibh go léir.