Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tall Tales and Subtle Truths: St Patrick's Day 2009

Fitting Thing 'Tis
A Parade for Patrick

Having just returned from NYC, perhaps second to Boston, in its revelry to honor the patron saint of Ireland, I feel up to my eyeballs in green.

Unless each of you forgives your brother and sister,
the Father will not forgive you.

Perhaps a few moments of reflection on the life of the man who brought the faith to the Emerald Isle may make the celebrations of the day and this evening more meaningful.

Patrick was according to most who have searched the facts of his life spent at few years in what is now Ireland as a slave, herding sheep. Following a dream's bidding, he escaped the land. Seemingly, Patrick studied theology in France, was ordained a priest and ultimately a bishop. In another dream he heard the voices of the Irish people calling him, so the legend goes, to return to them, to bring the faith to them. This he did and began his "parade" through Ireland. He brought many to the faith. He built a number of churches.

However, ask anyone "wearing the green" today when Patrick was born or died, and you most likely might hear a bit of Irish truth ... "well now, seems to me, wasn't he runnin' 'round to good, old sod a long time ago? Yep, 'tis it: a long time ago!"

Patrick's missionary work took place in the 5th century. Most historians consider 460 AD to be the year of his death but most are uncertain as to the year he was born.

For we who profess the Catholic faith, today is a day when we look to a saint who can be an excellent model for us in our days. Missionary. Surely all of us can be missionaries without leaving our country, our state, our city or even our family. So many are alienated from our Church. So many have abandoned a genuine practice of our faith. And what do we do about it? If we find St. Patrick's day and all the celebration that surrounds it, perhaps we might drink in not just his ale but his spirit.

Perhaps a reading of Patrick's life, might well give support and comfort to those who come to our shores seeking freedom and independence. Perhaps, just perhaps, St. Patrick might easily become a model and a patron for ALL immigrants who come to these shores of ours, whether in the Northeast or the Southwest!

Let today be a day when we add to our Lenten resolves the effort to do what we can to bring back to the Church and to the practice of our faith those closest to us who have abandoned any practice of faith. Perhaps a paragraph from The Breastplate of St. Patrick ... a prayer attributed to the saint ... might give us some resolve that lasts. "Google" the prayer!

I arise today
through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me,
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

Christ to shield me today....
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Having read over that second paragraph -- actually the 7th strophe of the hymn-- I now have an insight into the words of several Irish born friends who seem to incorporate the word "Christ" in every sentence they speak!!! Maybe I have looked askance at the true Irish missionary spirit!!!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, from one who recently learned that there was a person of green who hopped the fence and married into the English roots that are part of my mother's family's background.