HOMILY FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY
17TH MARCH, 2020.
Life has come to a standstill with Covid-19. The fast lane is empty of traffic. We are all moving into the layby. We are puzzled, don’t know where to turn – like rabbits caught in the headlights. We prided ourselves in being able to predict the future – storms and climatic conditions, the onslaught of economic recession or boom. We had the illusion of being in control or at least being able to predict.
In the last few days and the days ahead we find ourselves in a totally different situation. We have no previous experience which might be reassuring. We aren’t sure of where we are and we are unable to predict the future. Over the years we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and prided ourselves in our self-confidence as we paraded our success in industrial development, music and the arts. We rejoiced in all of this and availed of our national Feast to provide us with a new identity.
This year there are no parades, no pageantry, no pomp. Yet, we celebrate our national apostle, St. Patrick. In a strange way we may be in a position to draw closer to Patrick in our present crisis of uncertainty, identify with him and the challenge he faced, recognise the way in which he responded and the courageous approach he adopted.
We readily acknowledge that we are traumatised by the onslaught of Covid-19. We find ourselves in a different, strange and unwelcome world. Just think of what a sixteen-year old boy must have experienced as he was captured by marauding raiders and taken as a slave to a strange land. In his confessions Patrick reminds us that though he had been baptised, his faith didn’t have any impact on him. The new situation in exile however prompted him to ask questions and search for meaning and purpose. Deprived of his family and of the tried and tested he reminds us that he resorted to prayer. He experienced a deepening of faith. In our present situation we can respond in either of two ways. We can abandon faith and succumb to defeatism and dejection or we can search for God in a new way and try to find what the Lord is saying to us in the present crisis and how we ought to respond.
It was during his crisis and experience of loneliness that the love and protection of God began to influence Patrick. You are familiar with the story of Patrick’s escape as he found a ship bound for his homeland. He subsequently returned to Ireland as a missionary Bishop. In his ministry Patrick tells us how he helped to liberate the Irish from Pagan worship, enabling them to turn towards God. In his ministry he encountered stiff opposition both from within and outside the Church. But this encouraged him to reaffirm his relationship with God. The Lord played an important role in Patrick’s life. He relates to a God who is personal and caring but also powerful and understanding. Patrick was very conscious of the fact that Christ was with him and relates to every aspect of his life.
Today we are frequently disappointed if we do not see instant results. Patrick however was a man of great perseverance and hope. In the face of discouragement, trials and opposition he remained focused on the Lord. In our present situation hope is very urgent when there are so many reasons to become discouraged. Through a difficult and often discouraging life however Patrick never wavered in his conviction that the Lord was watching over him. There is a special attraction about St. Patrick, namely the fact that from the time of his slavery, he had never stopped seeing his real helplessness and realising that he had found a helper and a friend in the Lord. Yes, we need Patrick, his faith, his courage and vision at this challenging time.