The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

St. Patrick's Day - March 17th


 

St. Patrick’s Day is probably the biggest and most celebrated event at a global level. The numbers of people involved in the celebrations, however, has very little to do with St. Patrick himself. 
 
It is highly unlikely that the man who returned to Ireland, to the land of his captivity, way back in the 5th century, would recognise himself in the way he is depicted in parades and posters throughout the world today. The figure all dressed in green and obsessed with getting rid of snakes has little to do with the real Patrick.
 In the 5th century bishops didn’t wear mitres and they certainly didn’t go around the place wearing the vestments for mass – in his day, in fact, what was worn for mass would have resembled much more the ordinary daily clothes that people wore at the time.
 
There are lots of things we don’t know about Patrick; there are some things we are reasonably sure of; and there are a few things that have a decent amount of certainty to back them up. 
We know that he was a very determined man. He took on the mission of evangelising the Irish people and didn’t shrink from that task no matter what difficulties he encountered.
 
We know that he was a brave man who cared little for his own comfort or security.   When he returned to Ireland, according to tradition he began his missionary task at Saul in County Down. Saul was not a place to make an inconspicuous return to Ireland. In the days before roads, sea routes were the main means of communication and Saul lay in close proximity to the Quoile estuary and Strangford Lough, which in Patrick’s time would have been Lough Cuan. Saul lay at the heart of an area, control of which was hotly disputed by rival chieftains. To hold your ground in there you had to be tough.  Patrick doesn’t creep off into the mountains that lay to the south to consider his strategy; he makes his base directly in the heart of a countryside of tough men.  
 
It is one of these who gives him the barn at Saul that became his first church.  Like St. Paul going to the cities of the ancient world to bring the Good News, Patrick does not shy away from taking on the world head on. There is no apologetic tone in Patrick’s approach. There is no sense that the Church would like to tell people about Jesus if that was all right with everyone and if no-one would be offended. He had no doubts whatsoever about the value and importance of the message he had to preach.
 
We also know that Patrick was no fool. He made it his business to engage with the local chieftains – the movers and shakers of his time. He used their structures as the basis for the organisation of the fledgling Christian community for which he was caring. The dioceses in Ireland, in fact, still follow those ancient borders of the lands once ruled by chieftains.
 
There are surely things here that we could learn from. As the heirs of this Christian tradition we too should always have confidence in the message that we bear; we should never be apologetic for being Christians or Catholics. Perhaps we could take courage from Patrick’s determination and his unflagging enthusiasm for living out his Christian calling, even in the face of criticism and adversity.
 
It’s wonderful to have a day to celebrate everything that it means to be Irish. It’s great that we dedicate this time to the good things about us. It would also do us no harm at all to remember the man whose name is borne by today.
 
Go mbeimid dílis go deo leis an méid atá faighte againn –
may we always be faithful to what we have received.
Possidius
 


 




Article posted on 17th of March 2014

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