St Patrick’s Day (Sunday 17th March)

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“God gave me the courage to speak his Gospel fearlessly in spite of great oppression. He has entrusted me with the Gospel. And this is how we preach, seeking to please God, not human beings, but God who is our witness.”

 These words of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians, and his living out of such a challenge, can be applied also to Saint Patrick, our patron Saint. In the Gospel we hear Peter proclaiming strongly: “Depart from me, I am a sinful man.” And Patrick also began his Confession in a similar manner when he proclaimed:

“I am a sinner, the most rustic and least of all the faithful. I am not at all worthy to receive so many graces.”

It is interesting how Patrick was so sure of the call he received from the Lord. In a vision he saw the children of Ireland calling out in prayer and entreaty:

“We ask you, holy boy, come and walk once more among us.”

And the challenge to leave his homeland and return to Ireland where he had been captured and badly treated, was strengthened by the words:

“He who gave his life for you, he it is who is speaking to you.”

Patrick accepted the call:

“In Ireland the Lord made me aware of my unbelief that I might turn wholeheartedly to the Lord, my God.  He protected me as a father would his child.”

 Many sufferings and trials afflicted Patrick when he arrived in Ireland. Yet in all this he remained steadfast and full of zeal. He writes:

“I give thanks to my God tirelessly, who kept me faithful in the day of trial. I proclaim God’s name in all places, not only when things go well, but also in times of stress and suffering. Whether I receive good or ill, I return thanks equally to God who taught me always to trust him.”


Patrick was very conscious of his lack of education and upbringing describing himself as:

“a stone lying in the deep mud – then He, who is mighty came in his mercy. He not only pulled me out, but lifted me up and placed me at the very top of the wall.”

 Patrick had a tremendous understanding of Scripture, the Word of God, as is evident in his words in the Confession and he compared himself to:

“a letter of Christ, bearing salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth – a letter, not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”

 He was convinced that he had been called to be a missionary, a bringer of good news to those who had never heard of Christ. He states:

“I must there speak publicly in order to repay the Lord for all his goodness to me.”

 Patrick sought only to do the will of God and had great respect for him. He says:

“God inspired me with fear reverence and patience to be the one who would serve the people faithfully to whom the love of God brought me.”

The dedication and zeal of Patrick would not have been achieved without the practice of prayer, and many times Patrick showed this by his example and by his manner of preaching. He confessed:

“I used to pray many times during the day and even before dawn I used to be roused up to pray – the Spirit of God was burning within me. In the course of a day I would say as many as a hundred prayers and also as many during the night.”

 Patrick certainly put his faith in God and trusted him at all times. He knew he could not carry out his mission alone and constantly turned to God. He wrote:

“I entrust my soul to God who is most faithful and for whom I am an ambassador in my humble state.”

 And Patrick loved his people, and prayed incessantly for them until the end.

“My only prayer is that it may never happen that I should lose his people, which he won for himself at the end of the world. It is not my virtue but God who put this concern into my heart that I should become, like Peter in the Gospel, one of the fishermen whom God called and who responded, leaving all to follow Christ.”


So, who is Patrick, the man of God, who is such a model for us? In summary he was:-

a man of Prayer;

a man of trust in God at all times

a zealous preacher

a forgiving person

a humble bishop

a dedicated missioner

a lowly sinner

a lover of Scripture.

 Many of these talents ascribed to Patrick can be ascribed to us also because we too are called to answer Jesus’ challenge: “Come. Follow me.”

So, on this great feast of Saint Patrick, our patron saint, let us thank God for all his graces and blessings, let us renew ourselves in living out our baptismal promises, and to cherish with love the faith which Patrick so ardently preached and handed on to us. May our country once more become “The Island of Saints and Scholars.” May we be filled with the spirit and zeal of Saint Patrick and pray earnestly for our country which is in such need at this time.



Sr. Padraigín McKenna OP


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