• on 17th March, 2017

St. Patrick: A Reflection + How His Feast Day Was Established

We venerate Patrick on this his feast day because he spent himself in proclaiming the gospel on this island, bringing Christ to huge numbers of people. In amazement at what God had done through him, he asks, ‘How then does it happen in Ireland that a people who in their ignorance of God always worshipped only idols and unclean things up to now, have lately become a people of the Lord and are called children of God?’ He was amazed at how much God had done through him, all the more so because he was very aware of his failings and weaknesses. At the beginning of his Confessions he says, ‘I am imperfect in many ways’. Patrick knew that he was a mixture of wheat and weed, like the field in the parable of today’s gospel reading. In that parable the owner of the field does not despise the field because darnel was to be found among the wheat. He was happy to allow both to grow together knowing that they would be separated at harvest time. When the Lord looks upon us, he looks beyond our failings to the good that is within us. Patrick did not allow his awareness of his imperfections to hold him back from doing what he knew God was calling him to do.

On his feast day we give thanks for Patrick’s response to God’s call to preach the gospel in the land of his former captivity. He was brought here as a slave at the age of 16, having been cruelly separated from his family and his homeland. Yet, out of this difficult experience came great good. Although Patrick had been baptized a Christian in his youth, he had developed no relationship with Christ. It was only in his captivity that Christ became real for him. He tells us: ‘When I came to Ireland… I used to pray many times during the day… My faith increased… the spirit was burning within me’. Patrick uses a striking image to express this transformation in his life: ‘Before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in the deep mud. Then he who is mighty came and in his mercy he not only pulled me out but lifted me up and placed me at the very top of the wall’. That spiritual awakening had enormous consequences, not only for himself but for the people of the land where he was held captive. In the course of our lives we can find ourselves in unfamiliar and threatening territory, unsure of our future and with regrets about the past. Patrick’s story reminds us that when we find ourselves in such wilderness places, the Lord is with us. Our brokenness can provide the openings for the Lord to enter our lives. Patrick says in his confessions: ‘I cannot be silent… about the great benefits and graces that the Lord saw fit to confer on me in the land of my captivity’. When we are brought low, the Lord will be as generous with us as he was with Patrick, and if we seek the Lord in such times, as Patrick did, the Lord will not only grace us but he will grace many others through us.


This Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONS: To know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by  “The Messenger”  www.messenger.ie


How was St. Patrick’s Feast Day established? Read on……

Fr. Luke Wadding, OFM, was born in Ireland in 1588 to wealthy parents. Upon their death, his older brother sent him to an Irish seminary in Portugal where he was ordained at age 25. After his ordination, his skill and eloquence won him the favor of King Philip III, who selected him to be sent to Rome as part of a delegation.

Once in Rome, Fr. Wadding established a seminary for Irish priests who were forced from their native Ireland because of the oppressive and anti-Catholic English occupation of their country. While there he was known to keep the feast of Saint Patrick with great solemnity. As his influence grew in Rome, he was placed on commission for the reform of the Breviary. Using his influence on the commission, he was able to have Saint Patrick’s feast day inserted into the calendar on March 17th.

In addition to his work on behalf of Saint Patrick’s feast day, Fr. Wadding also helped organize resistance to the English occupation, and even reportedly received votes to become pope during the papal conclaves of 1644 and 1655. He went to his reward on Nov. 18, 1657. Fr. Wadding is a great example of the impact that the Franciscans have had on the Church throughout the centuries.

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