St. Patrick’s Day

Mar 16, 2012

When most people think of St. Patrick’s day they think of the saint who freed Ireland of snakes. Many people celebrate this day wearing green and enjoying good Irish music, Guinness and dancing at an Irish pub. 

Such a celebration is great. I enjoy the music and Guinness even if I am not wearing green.  


But it is easy to forget that Patrick was a robust follower of God who brought the Good News of Jesus Christ to Ireland. When something is too much for us (either too bad or too generous) we reduce it to what we can deal with easily. So we wear green and drink Guinness, and forget what the beer and colour is helping us to remembering.


We reduce the lives of the saints (as we do the Truths of faith) to ideas that are optional and which don’t require us to leave our comforts or to face our fears.

The same reduction has happened with many other saints.

We reduce the feast of St. Francis to pet day at school, or even animal farm at Church.  Francis would be scandalised at the reduction. While Francis did have a good encounter with a wolf, his primary love was not the earth and the animals!  Francis loved God, and gave his life to serving God. This decision and his life of faith placed him in relationship with the poor, the lepers, the animals and all of creation.  


To diminish the life of Francis by focussing on animals or on creation is the same tragic misunderstanding as reducing Patrick to beer and music.

And then there is Valentine.  Valentine’s day has become a feast of secular romantic love. We know little about the life of this saint.  Pope Gelasius I in the fifth century named  Valentine among the saints “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.”    We do know that St. Valentine was a martyr. He gave his life for God.  It is reasonable to assume that Valentine is a bit upset and seeing his sacrifice remembered only in anonymous gifts of chocolate and red roses.

The reduction of the lives of these saints is the pattern of a secular world where even the feast of the Incarnation of the one true and real God is more about the mythical Santa Claus.  And the greatest feast of the passion and resurrection of our Saviour at Easter is reduced to hot cross buns and chocolate eggs.

Back to Patrick.  On the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick, let’s drink good Guinness, wear green and rollick to the Irish music. But let’s also take a moment to remember that Patrick is a forefather in faith who taught us that all the colour of dancing, beer and good music cannot begin to match the joy of living with Jesus Christ, now and forever.


Amen!


The prayer traditionally known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
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 devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
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 of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

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