Feast of St. Patrick

St. Patrick from 1500 year centennial commemoration of his mission to Ireland
St. Patrick from 1500 year centennial commemoration of his mission to Ireland

Saint Patrick, who art thou?

This question has been on my lips and in my heart since I have lived on this blessed Isle of Ireland. Each morning as I pray before your statue, it is on my mind.

Whilst I have read many accounts of your life, visited places sacred to you, the question still eludes me.

Yet, by the grace of God you left us your fifth century Confession. Your own humble words can be perused and prayed upon by our simple minds and broken hearts.

I thank you deeply for your testament, bearing witness to your most incredible life.

Thou art humble, Saint Patrick, very humble. For thou didst know, thou wast nothing before He Who is Everything – our Triune Lord and Master, our God.

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Tradition tells that you expressed His truth of Tri-unity, by means of the three-leaved shamrock, which used to grow abundantly by the hedgerows.

And in your writings it is clear how well you knew Him, Three in One, intimately.

You bowed down before God the Father, in complete humility, offering your miserable life as you yourself wrote, sure of His mercy and strengthened by His love. Your life was entrusted in this way.

And you saw the Son of God, our Brother and Lord, rising as the sun – yet never setting.

For His love shines into eternity. He enlightened the very fabric of your being, every step, every word.

As you walked amongst the Irish people, people of your heart, you carried this eternal light of the Son. As Bishop, you Baptised and Confirmed and Ordained, in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost.

And the latter did constantly move you, as He worked miracles in your soul. He led you, prayed within you and transformed you. As you did say, you knew not whether He was within or without. As long as the Spirit was your guiding force, it did not matter.

And whilst I have lived with this question upon my lips, “Who art thou, Saint Patrick?” I have witnessed your fruits – the holiness of this Sacred Isle.

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Whilst the faith is dwindling, it still appears strong to those, like myself, who have come from other lands. I am so touched by the prayerfulness of this island.

The people are so kind and generous, always quick to help. A total stranger in a small village, I was not a stranger for long! The heartfelt welcome I received melted any barriers.

And as I pass through this small northwestern village in which I live, it seems not one, not two, but I imagine nearly every home has a red lamp burning for His Sacred Heart.

Yet I am repeatedly told: We have lost the faith in Ireland we have lost the faith.

And sadly, there are grave indications that this is very much the case.

Yet, Saint Patrick, it is oh so sad, as you must deeply know. This Isle is taking a different path to the one you revealed.

This isle is now filled with many souls who are again worshiping the sun, which sets each night.

They no longer place their wholehearted trust in the Son, as you taught them to.

Your holy counsel is being forgotten and ignored, oh Saint Patrick.

You must be weeping as many weep here. Your heart must be breaking, as you look down from your heavenly abode.

I implore thee, we the faithful here in Ireland implore thee: pray for us sinners.

Pray, Oh Saint Patrick that the faith be restored in this blessed country.

Once you knew this unbelief yourself. For as a youth, you ignored the faith given to you.

You disobeyed the hierarchy, those clerics in whose trust you were placed.

So doing, you rejected the One Who made you, the One through Whom you were made and the One Who breathed life into you.

And you suffered for it, being taken captive, a young man of just sixteen.

It was then that you were brought to this blessed Isle and suffered great hunger and cold.

And you came to know that each and every deed was placed before the Divine judgement.

For it was through this suffering that you found your Triune God, our Lord.

He gave you the strength to endure everything. For, He gave you the great gifts of faith and perseverance.

No more were you afflicted by hunger, or thirst, or cold, or fear.

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Whilst you felt these greatly, in your poor body, your spirit was so infused and imbued with His love and mercy that this suffering seemed but nothing to you.

You would have easily suffered death for your God.

And onwards you trod, honouring and praising His Holy Name wherever you did go, spreading the faith throughout.

Irish Catholic crosses
Tombstones in Catholic Ireland. Photo: Kim Buck

Such a testament was your holy life. And the whole of Ireland was transformed, remaining so for hundreds of years.

That is, so I say, until now.

These humble people have suffered so much for the faith – persecution and strife, starvation and toil, most will never know.

Like yourself, their Ambassador in faith, onward they went, preserving that which made deepest sense, belief in He Who is Everything, our Triune God.

Unlike any other people, they prayed, made pilgrimage and fought for the faith.

But, now …

New religions plague this land – secularism, neo-paganism. And tragically, many of your people are now bowing down before their idols.

Once you wrote a passionate, powerful letter to Coroticus, fighter against the faith, warning of the dangers of worshipping false idols.

You were harsh and fierce in that letter. You were less severe in your Confession, but still you warned against the worshipping of false gods. You wrote:

This sun which we see rises daily for us, because He commands so. But it will never reign, nor will its splendour last, those wretches who adore it will be miserably punished.

Not so we, who believe in, and worship the true sun – Christ – who will never perish, nor will he who does His will; but he will abide for ever as Christ abideth for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and the Holy Spirit before time, and now, and in all eternity. Amen.

In fact, it was a similar situation when you came to Ireland, obedient to the Lord, bringing the faith and spreading it through the land. Here are further words from your Confession:

Hence, how did it come to pass in Ireland that those who never had a knowledge of God, but until now always worshiped idols and things impure, have now been made a people of the Lord, and are called sons of God, that the sons and daughters of the kings of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ?

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It was you, St. Patrick. You brought about this conversion. Your steadfast faith in God, through every kind of difficulty or challenge, converted these pagan peoples to the Lord.

And so deep and integral was that conversion that Ireland became the land of saints and scholars – holding the flame aloft for all of Christendom.

And whilst many in Ireland are being lost to the faith, it still remains the holy place you once made it. There is hope and we must all pray as you did, for a return to the faith in this holy land.

St. Patrick, pray for us sinners.

St. Patrick, pray for the faith.

St. Patrick, pray for Ireland.

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2 responses to “Feast of St. Patrick”

  1. Clay Masterson Avatar
    Clay Masterson

    I love the Catholic faith but the Catholic Church has no one but itself to fault for people falling away from the faith there. The Irish were some of the most devout Catholics in all of Europe and the Church completely abused that trust and abused the laity. If the Catholic Church ever hopes to be a force again in Ireland, the Church and the Hierarchy need to humble themselves and once again act as servants to all. The Church became confused in its role and sought to protect itself and its privilege rather than protecting its faithful. That type of betrayal is not easily forgotten or forgiven. It breaks my heart that people in Ireland are leaving the Church, but the blame is not paganism or secularism, it is the Church failing to live up to its own ideals and people despise hypocrisy more than anything.

  2. kim Avatar

    Clay, the Catholic Church is certainly in a mess. It is a very sad and tragic situation.

    As you say, the Church herself has much to do with people falling away from the faith.

    Yet, living in Ireland, I am seeing how the situation is far more complex than this.

    Whilst the Church has fostered the evils of abuse of power, and many people most certainly feel betrayed, I fear the Church has become a scapegoat.

    Indeed her faults need to be admitted and acknowledged, but also her beauty and the wonder she is, also honoured.

    I think we can pray for the priesthood, to become true agents for the Lord, acting only for His greater glory.

    I am very glad you have found a Cathedral with a weekly Latin Mass. For I believe the strength of the faith lies in this beautiful liturgy, which shapes and heals us, bringing us more deeply into His Heart.

    I am touched by your heartfelt concern and ask if you will pray with me, as I’m sure you do, for the healing of our Holy Church, the hierarchy and the wounded laity.

    I won’t say more. There are huge issues here – more than I can easily say in these comments boxes. My husband Roger has a blog about some of these things here though, which I think might be a bit helpful.

    Yours, in Christ,