I spent the weekend in one of the several “St. Patrick’s” parishes of our diocese. While this year the feast (normally March 17) has been shifted to today (Monday 18th) allowing Mass of the Sunday to take priority, under normal circumstances the signs of St. Patrick’s feast would be evident.
But in New Zealand these days we are not living under normal circumstances. Friday’s terrorist attacks resulting in the tragic killing of 50 of our Christchurch family have changed life in our city forever.
We now have to accept that terrorism is not reserved to northern hemisphere cities in distant lands but is a reality in our own country. In the past three days we have experienced an unprecedented solidarity with those who live under constant threat of terrorism in other parts of the world.
While most people in New Zealand may have little understanding of faiths other than Christian, we are, because of this tragedy, for the first time easily transcending perceived divisions to care for, to embrace and to express our love for and solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the Muslim faith.
We are indeed brothers and sisters, Muslim and Christians together calling Abraham our father in faith, united in our belief in One God.
And this is where the painful reality of these days meets the witness of the life of St. Patrick.
Most St. Patrick’s day celebrations focus on the wearing of the green and enjoying good Irish music, Guinness and dancing at an Irish pub.
So it’s can be easy to forget that Patrick was a passionate disciple of Jesus Christ who brought the Good News of the ultimate and eternal liberation through Jesus Christ to the people of Ireland.
Patrick showed the people how to live freedom even in the midst of oppression and persecution.
Too often we reduce the lives of the saints (as we do many truths of faith) to ideas that we then consider to be optional beliefs and which don’t require us to leave our comforts or to face our fears.
Today on this celebration of St. Patrick, and in the midst of our suffering, let us turn to Jesus Christ knowing that he is God-with-us.
While this well-known prayer may not have been penned by Patrick, it has from the fifth century been known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate. You might like to spend a few moments of stillness with this beautiful prayer, and with the powerful audio of the hymn below:
Light of sun, radiance of moon
Splendour of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock
God’s eye to look before me
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s way to lie before me
God’s shield to protect me
Afar and a-near
Alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel, merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul
Christ behind me, Christ in me