Tired of all the bad news

While we can't deny the difficulites for so many people at home and overseas, it's important to take account of the positives, and to spread the Good News. I don't know who said this but; "No-one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side." Blessings..

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Holy Family

There are two different messages between Christmas day and St. Stephen’s Day. Christmas Day is predominantly about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all life. Almighty God came down into the human story as a little baby born in poverty, in a borrowed cave, and laid in a manger because there was no room at the inn.
On December 26th, the Church then celebrates the feast of its first martyr, Stephen. So, the liturgy goes from life to death in a sense. In the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen is one of the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit that will not stop preaching about the good news of Jesus Christ and those who oppose him want to put an end to him. He is stoned to death as he proclaims Christ and a young man called Saul entirely approves of the killing. Later we meet Saul as he too is transformed by Jesus Christ and becomes a champion of the Christian way.

So, in 24 hours its fitting that the Church shows in its liturgy the birth of Jesus Christ and what it means for the world, and how Stephen (and many others – even up to our time) witness to Jesus Christ by the shedding of their blood.

The feast of the Holy Family can be seen as a sign of contradiction too. In the Gospel today we see Jesus getting lost from the caravan of people travelling back to Nazareth from Jerusalem after the Passover. For three days his mother Mary, and Joseph are beside themselves with worry until they go back to Jerusalem and find him sat in the company of the doctors and experts of the law. Of course it must be hugely traumatic for Mary and Joseph after looking for him. Luke draws out the parallel between how the boy Jesus is missing for three days and later he will after his death on the cross be in the tomb for three days.

Let’s not get too caught up with the popular images of the Holy Family in that almost clinical and sterile way they can perhaps be portrayed. They had their struggles and fears. Just look at the infancy narratives of Luke’s gospel. They must be held up as a model for families today all over the world. Jesus, Mary and Joseph identify with the highs and lows of family life with all their complexities.

Look at the images coming from airports and ferry ports today as families are joyfully re-united for Christmas. There’s so much joy and excitement around the Christmas dinner table and the living room fireside. Yet, there can be tension and stress especially too as families make that extra effort. The Holy Family know that struggle. And as surely as our young people come back to the family for Christmas, there’s also the looming departure gates. I really pray that very soon our young people especially will be in a position to return home to Ireland if that’s what they want. For those that have made a new life and formed relationships overseas, may we always find new ways to make our world a smaller place.

I am also conscious of the families who will have an empty chair at the Christmas table. Families broken by emigration, unemployment, and death. The Holy Family of Nazareth, the model for all families, knows the struggles and sadness and Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are with all families as they face the new year with hope or fear.

May this Christmas time and 2016 be blessed for all. Amen. 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Jesus Christ is the mercy of God...

Some people would say I like the sound of my own voice. I’m well able to talk and I can feel quite at home in any pulpit. Words usually come easily to me. One of my faults is that I don’t prepare very well to write a homily.

Therefore, I made a conscious decision to write a Christmas homily for our Masses in the parish and the friary. I wanted to say something about God coming into our human story as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem and how Jesus Christ is the true door of mercy for all. I wanted to attempt to tie it all in with the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Church. The Holy Father, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door in St. Peter’s in Rome on December 8th. Here in the Dublin archdiocese, Archbishop Martin opened the Jubilee Door of Mercy in the Pro Cathedral last Sunday.

In Pope Francis’ Document inaugurating the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy entitled Misericordiae Vultus, some lines really jumped out at me; for example, the Pope says; “Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.” He goes on; “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel.”

However, every time I tried to sit down to write something, I got distracted. I was called down to the parlour and the front office to meet different people and I also took a couple of phone calls.  At the same time, I was conscious that I needed to go out to buy some gifts for our valued helpers and volunteers in the friary and the parish. I sat in front of the computer screen and tried to put some words together based on some inspiring thoughts from Pope Francis and the minute I’d begin to get on a roll, the phone would ring.

On reflection, when I went to meet people in the parlour, at the front office, or on the phone, I became aware that I had an encounter each time with Christ. Someone came for confession and I was able to help them to begin again for Christmas.  Some people came for help of some kind or another and they needed me to give them a listening ear and spend some time with them. Someone who wanted to help Br. Kevin help the many that come to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless. And we’ve been moved by the magnificent generosity of ordinary people.

St. Conrad of Parzham, (1818-1894) a Capuchin, said that when he was called away to the parlour he would respond with “Yes Lord” as if it was God himself that needed him. Blessed Mother Teresa in her ministry to the poorest of the poor used to say she just saw Jesus himself in a distressing disguise.

On Christmas Day, a Saviour has been born for us, He is Christ the Lord. We need to open our eyes to recognize him and our hearts to love him as he loves us very much and indeed Jesus Christ is the mercy of God. No one is forbidden to approach the crib, there’s a place for you there, and a welcome. Amen.

Monday, 23 November 2015

In the steps of Jesus in the Market Place

On both sides of the River Liffey in Dublin, there are fruit and vegetable markets. For generations people from all over the country would do business buying and selling fruit and veg in bulk. The Moore Street and Thomas Street dealers and traders would sell fresh fruit to people from their street stalls. The fish, fruit, and vegetable dealers on Moore street in Dublin's north inner city are famous all over the world.

Today, trucks come in from Europe with shipments of flowers, fruit and vegetables. Markets people buy them and retailers then stock them in their stores the length and breath of Ireland. The markets people who work here begin their day very early and work into the afternoon. After a long day, they return home to begin again the following morning when most of us are asleep. 

In St. Michan's Parish, we daily meet the markets community as they load and unload the best of vegetables, fruits and herbs. Forklifts drive back and forth around the parish with another pallet of goods ready to travel to a shop or supermarket. 

Each year, we always had a memorial Mass for those markets people who have died and gone before us. The Mass was usually in St. Michan's Church, Halston St and the traders would come in and pray for and remember their dead. About five years ago, we decided to bring the Mass to the markets where the dealers and traders erected a beautiful altar festooned with fruit and vegetables and flowers. 

Following a conversation I had with Derek Leonard, one of the traders of long standing and also a Permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of Dublin, we felt it would be lovely if the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin would come and celebrate the memorial Mass this year. And so, last Friday, the Archbishop came to the Market place and along with the traders, dealers, and neighbors, as well as the school children from Presentation Primary School, George's Hill, we prayed for those gone before us marked with the sign of faith. These Markets people we offered the Mass for have passed on the love of the fruits of Mother Earth as well as the love of the faith and family. We give thanks to God for their life and their generosity.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

All Saints

St. Jose Maria Escriva: “The saint is the sinner who never stopped trying.”

St. John Paul II: “Do not afraid to be saints”

We have what it takes to be saints.

We are called by name – chosen

We are saved by the power of the love of Jesus Christ

He reminds us that God is Love.

St. John

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are.”

Lavished - This means generosity.

To paraphrase Pope Francis; He doesn’t just grease us with his love. It’s an abundant pouring out of it.

So our response must surely be to be the best people we can be - or to at least try.

And indeed, the happiest people are people who attempt to live the beatitudes each day.

And as we go down through them, lived honestly, they are a recipe for happiness and contentment on the inside.

This I believe is what the saints did.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin

This morning in Rome on this Mission Sunday the Holy Father, Pope Francis canonized four new saints for the Universal Church. Among them was Louis and Zelie Martin, a married couple. They are the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, affectionately known as the Little Flower.

Louis Martin
Louis Martin (1823 - 1894) was a watchmaker by trade.  He also managed his wife's lace business. Born into a family of soldiers, Louis spent his early years at many different French military posts.

At twenty-two, young Louis sought to enter religious life at the monastery of the Augustinian Canons of the Great St. Bernard Hospice in the Alps. Unfortunately this didn't work out.  Eventually, Louis settled down in Alencon, a small city in France, and pursued his watchmaking trade.

Zelie Guerin
Zelie Guerin (1831 - 1877) was one of Alencon's more talented lace makers. Born into a military family, Zelie didn't have a very happy childhood and her mother and father weren't particularly affectionate. As a young lady, she sought unsuccessfully to enter the religious order of the sisters of the Hotel-Dieu. Zelie then learned the Alencon lace-making technique and soon mastered this painstaking craft.

Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin met in Alencon, and they married on July 13, 1858, and thus began their remarkable journey through life. Within the next fifteen years, Zelie bore nine children, seven girls and two boys. "We lived only for them," Zelie wrote; "they were all our happiness."They had more than their fair share of suffering in that within three years, Zelie's two infant boys, a five year old girl, and a six-and-a-half week old infant girl all died. Zelie was grief-stricken. "I haven't a penny's worth of courage," she was heard to say. But her faith sustained her. She firmly believed that she would meet her children again "up above."

The Martins' last child was born January 2, 1873. She was weak and frail, and doctors feared for the infant's life. But the baby girl proved to be much tougher than anyone realized. She survived the illness.  "The baby," Zelie noted, "is full of life, giggles a lot, and is sheer joy to everyone." Although the shadow of the cross was never far from the Martin household, Louis and Zelie had always found support in their faith.

The series of tragedies had helped them to grow stronger in their love for each other and their family and they poured out their affection on their five surviving daughters; Marie, 12, Pauline, 11, Leonie 9, Celine, 3, and their new-born. Louis and Zelie named their new-born; Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin. A century later people would know her as St. Therese, and call her the "Little Flower."
(Therese was canonized on May 17th 1925 by Pope Pius XI)

(part of the above information thanks to www.littleflower.org)

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

On this day in 1979, Pope John Paul II arrived in Ireland...

On this day in 1979, Pope John Paul II arrived in Ireland...
I was just ten years old when Pope John Paul II came to Ireland...
I remember the 'Alarm Car' waking the neighbourhood up to be in time to join the Parish procession to the Phoenix Park. My mam had our tomato sandwiches and collapsible stools for the Mass. We were shown to the corrals and waited to see the Aer Lingus Boeing 747 EI ASJ as it routed up the River Liffey.
I remember myself and my brother Kevin wearing our Snorkel Jackets sprayed with wasp killer to keep the autumnal bees and wasps away.  I remember the cheers of the more than a million people as the Holy Father arrived to begin Mass. "Like St. Patrick, I too have heard the voice of the Irish calling to me..."
I remember shouting to the Pope in the Pope Mobile as he wound his way through the cheering crowds after Mass.
I recall standing on Thomas Street in the heart of Dublin's Liberties with my mam, my brother and my aunt as the Pope Mobile passed by and the Pope wearing what looked like a big red sombrero...
That was 36 years ago...
I'd love if Pope Francis would come to Ireland. It's time...


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Feast of St. Michan. August 25th.

From the banks for the River Jordan, Jesus began his public ministry of preaching the Good News. He called 12 apostles to follow him and he challenged them to "Go and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt 28) After Jesus died on the cross and rose again, he sent the Holy Spirit to fortify his disciples to continue to preach the gospel.

St. Patrick brought the Faith to Ireland and in his turn, Michan, on the banks of another river, the River Liffey preached the message of Jesus Christ to the faith community of his day. We thank God for the faith of generations of people who have passed on this good news to our time.

Brief History of St. Michan s Church Halston Street

Who St. Michan was, has, until recently, been a mystery to ecclesiastical historians. The old Irish name (Glasmocanoge) of the street now called Constitution Hill, gives a clue to the mystery. Glasmocanoge is the boundary stream of the district that was under the spiritual care of St. MoChanog, namely, St. Michan.

He was the eldest son of the Prince of Brecknock in Wales and lived in the fifth century. He founded the Cill or Church of Cill-mo-Chonog (now Kilmacanoge in Co. Wicklow) and his brother Mocarog founded the cill in Delgany. It seems that having founded the Cill in Kilmacanoge, he then came to Dublin and set up a hostel in the Stoneybatter area.

St. Michan is mentioned in the "A Calendar of Irish Saints" as "Michan of Cill Michan in Atha Cliath" (Michan of the Church of Michan in Dublin) and his feast is 25th August. In fact, his father, the Prince of Brecknock, in Wales was said to have been an Irishman. When Michan set up his Cill in Dublin, he returned to his native Wales and was slain in 496.

Michan s Cill or religious house continued for several centuries and in 1096 the foundation of the Cathedral of St. Michan was laid by the then Bishop. The church remained a Cathedral for a very short time until Christ Church became the Cathedral in 1121. Archbishop Laurence O Toole (1161) introduced Regular Canons into Christ Church to live in community. In support of the Canons he granted various churches, with their tithes, among which was St. Michan s (1178).

After the reformation, the Protestant Government took over the Church of St. Michan (in Church Street) in 1540 and the Catholic priests had to find new ways of providing the Sacraments to their faithful. They had to resort to the back streets for those purposes. St. Michan's Mass House was in a back room of a house and became the first Parish Chapel recorded in Penal Times. The Sacraments continued to be available to the people of the area through the Penal Times and limited Catholic education was provided for boys and girls. Teresa Mullaly founded George s Hill where the Presentation Sisters continue her work to this day.

In 1704, the old building at the corner of Bull Lane and Mary s Lane was transformed into a chapel.  The Novena of Grace in honour of St. Francis Xavier was started in this chapel by the Jesuits in 1712
The Irish name for Michan is Mo-Can-og; the Mo (my) and Og (little) usually added to saints names as terms of affection, and Can was the surname. In Welsh the Mo is rendered My, and so, in the name Michan we have the Welsh pronunciation My-Can. The present day Catholic Church of St. Michan opened in 1817.

Easter Vigil in St. Michan's 2015


November annual Markets Remembrance Mass for all who have died from Dublin's Fruit and Vegetable Markets and deceased
Moore St/ Henry St/ Cole's Lane dealers and traders.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Weekend retreat for Consecrated Religious in All Hallows College, Dublin

I was part of a committee which arranged a weekend retreat in All Hallows College, Dublin for consecrated men and women for this Year of Consecrated Life. The idea came from Sr. Briege McKenna OSC and the key note speaker was Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa ofm.cap. Preacher to the Papal Household. 150 religious came along over the weekend and gave glory to God for the gift of religious life today.

"What attracts vocations is not propaganda, it is hope. People only join orders that are hope-filled." Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.




Monday, 8 June 2015

On this day 18 years ago I was ordained to the priesthood in St. Kevin's Church, Kilnamanagh, Dublin... #DeoGratias

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Body and Blood of Christ...

Brennan Manning, an American Franciscan priest, tells this story about his mother, a lady in her mid-seventies in Brooklyn. Mrs. Manning’s day centred on her daily Eucharist. Because she began a voluntary stint at a drug detox centre each morning at 7.30 a.m. the only Mass she could go to each day was at 5.30 a.m.

Across the road from her lived a very successful lawyer, mid-thirties, married with children. The man had no religion and was particularly critical of daily church-goers. Driving home from a late night party at 5.00 a.m. one January morning, the roads were glassy with ice, he said to his wife; ‘I bet she won’t be out this morning’ referring to Mrs. Manning. But to his shock, there she was on hands and knees negotiating the hill up to the church.
He went home, tried to sleep but could not. Around 9.00 a.m. he got up, went to the local presbytery and asked to see the priest. ‘Padre,’ he said, ‘I am not one of yours. I have no religion. But can you tell me what do you have in there that can make an old woman crawl on hands and knees on an icy morning?’ Thus began his conversion along with his wife and family.

What do we have in here that makes people come to Mass each week or even each day? And I feel the Sunday Mass obligation or the threat of not going to Mass being a sin is not a runner anymore. I believe that most people who still come to Mass do so because they always did. But there is still some hidden pull or some hidden desire for connection. What is it? And sometimes we can’t find words to explain why.

In conversations about football or sport, I’ve met people who are lifelong supporters of teams that haven’t won a big tournament for years, but they still keep the faith. One day it will come good. The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is something that can’t be seen with our physical sight. We need a different sense of vision to see Jesus Christ present on the altar and at Mass; we look at Him with the eyes of faith. We can all identify with someone like Mrs Manning we know who will show us, perhaps without even saying a word, a great example of their strength of faith. In the words of the old Benediction hymn ‘Tantum ergo Sacramentum;’ ‘Sight is blind before God’s glory, faith alone may see His face.
(Story taken from 'The Good News of Mark's Year' by Fr. Silvester O'Flynn. Columba Press, Dublin 1990) 


Monday, 6 April 2015

We are the Easter people...

The women of Jerusalem went to the tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint the badly damaged dead body of Jesus. They weren’t able to do this after he was taken down from the cross, as it was almost the Sabbath and therefore Jesus was buried in haste. When they reached the tomb, they found that the huge stone had been rolled back. In the different gospel translations we meet different angelic figures who tell the women and the disciples that they won’t find Jesus in the empty tomb.

From Luke’s Gospel we read;

On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but on entering they could not find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled about this, two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appeared at their side. Terrified, the women bowed their heads to the ground. But the two said to them, 'Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he has risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee:

(Luke 24)

Jesus is risen, he is no longer in the tomb – it is empty; the tomb cannot contain him anymore. Behind him, Jesus has left death, darkness, fear, and sin. As Christians, as people of the resurrection, we have no business in the empty tomb looking for Jesus, we won’t find him there. We need to break free from the tomb too, and leave behind the darkness in our lives. We need to walk away from all that traps and binds us up in a suffocating grip. In the tomb we leave our fears, our phobias, our introspection, our prejudices, our anger, all violence, all rivalry, all darkness, and all sin. We run away from everything that takes our joy and stops us serving one another which is the key to contentment.  We need to leave all this behind as all of it holds us back. We are called to go to Jesus who has gone ahead of us into the light, for he alone has the message of eternal life.

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope St. John Paul II




Sunday, 5 April 2015

"There is no need for alarm"

There is no need for alarm…Do not be afraid (Mark 16:1-7)
Messages from God are invariably introduced with an encouragement to let go of all fear.

The sun is rising as the women are coming to the tomb in the early morning after the Sabbath. They were over-due to anoint the dead body of Jesus as it was forbidden over the Sabbath rest. Also, after a terrifying experience for all Jesus’ friends and followers, many who ran away, they buried his body in a borrowed tomb in haste. In a sense, they couldn’t wait for first light on Sunday morning so they could do for him what they could in all charity.  The body would no doubt be in a bad way after a brutal and savage scourging and a horrific execution by the Romans – humiliation for the entire world to see. They have brought with them herbs and spices to anoint the remains and fresh linen cloths because the shroud he was put in would be soaked. All they were concerned about was who would they get to roll away the large stone that was placed in front of the tomb. Their broken hearts thumping, they turned the corner and drew near to the tomb.
What greeted them was very strange. The stone had been rolled back. Now this was no small boulder. This was a large heavy circular rock which had been fashioned for the specific purpose of guarding the entrance to a burial tomb. They hurried in and were greeted by a young man in white who said “There is no need for alarm, you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified: he has risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him. But you must go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him, just as he told you."

There is no need for alarm. Do not be afraid. These are words that have been ringing in my ears for a while now. As powerfully as the angel inside the empty tomb, the ‘man in white’ challenges the women to let go of all fear, we Christians are challenged by the fact that Jesus is alive to do the same in our time. So what scares us? What scares me? What are the fears I must let go of in order to be fully alive? Because have no doubt, fear locks up all of us with a power stronger than jail doors, high walls and prison bars.
In our own community here in the city centre, we need to shake off the shackles of the fears that imprison us in crime, in addiction, in hatred, in racism, in rivalry, in trafficking, and in violence. Speaking at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in The Pro Cathedral the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin said; How many are there who feel that our culture offers them fulfilment and yet never seem to reach the happiness that they seek.  How many are frustrated into resorting to violence – just think of the brutal murders on our streets?  How many find themselves trapped into a culture of empty consumerism, of drugs or even of morbid depravity?”

It’s no secret that we have an epidemic addiction problem in this city and in Ireland. Many know the details far more than me.  I’m not qualified to speak with any authority on the horrors of addiction but these people, our sisters and brothers, are buried in a tomb as dark and foreboding as Christ’s tomb was. This is the vicious circle that has them tied up and restrained in bandages which are almost impossible to undo.  But all is not lost. Even though things seemed all was lost and gone for the women of Jerusalem and for the disciples of Jesus as he died on the cross, what was actually happening was a new beginning. There is no need to be afraid – there is always hope. I salute the members of NA, CA, AA, Soilse, and the SNUG counselling service in our Parish. You all are bearers of the light in what can be seen as a darkened tomb. The impossibly heavy rock will be thrown away.
When the women went to disciples, they all remembered what Jesus had often said about his passion, death, and resurrection. They came to faith in him and in his promises. They were fuelled by the power of the Holy Spirit to go out and witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and to preach the Gospel to all nations. From day one there was ridicule and even hostility to this new Christian movement. There were some who actively tried to oppose it and some again who have done so from the inside. Men and women were martyred because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Over and over again, across the centuries, the church of Christ has stood in the shadow of the cross of Christ. 

In our time, I would argue there seems to be very little appetite in Irish society for example, for the church, and by that I mean the Bishops or church spokespeople, to explain Church teaching.   The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr. Eamon Martin also spoke at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in Armagh about the challenges of being a Christian and holding Christian values in the Ireland of today; Sometimes daring to witness openly to our sincerely held Christian convictions can bring upon us ridicule, condemnation or even persecution. I am thinking, for example, about our strong beliefs in the sacredness of human life from the first moment of conception until the moment of natural death; our Church’s understanding of marriage and the family; our Catholic social teaching about the fair distribution of goods, care for creation and concern for the weakest and most vulnerable.”
While I am aware that there can be over-zealous Catholic and Christian opinion out there, I wonder why our church which is simply stating its time-honored, centuries-old teaching of marriage being between a man and a woman, which is open to life, can be told to more or less get out of the way. Like I said earlier, again, I am not eminently qualified to speak as I am not married, but I feel I have some insights into it since I spent the first 18 years of my life living with a mother and a father in a family. And while I don’t live with them now, I am aware of their lives, and their struggles, and their highs and their lows, and I love them just the same. Many priests are married today in different places where the Church is and in Dublin we have married Permanent Deacons who preside at weddings, celebrate baptisms, and lead funeral liturgies, so that old argument of clergy not having a clue will disappear too.

Meeting us with the words, ‘There is no need for alarm,’ We are challenged by the ‘angel in white’ who sits in the tomb and announces that Christ is not there. We are asked who are we looking for? Ultimately we all seek Jesus. We want to be happy and he alone has the message of eternal life.

“I plead with you--never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”  Pope St. John Paul II





Tuesday, 17 March 2015

St. Patty's Day

There’s no doubt about it, there’s a lot of love for the Irish and the spirit of Ireland today all around the world. If you look at the social media and the main stream media, you will see pictures of many world famous landmarks turned green for the day that’s in it. The great statue of Christ the King in Rio De Janeiro, the Coliseum in Rome, and the Sydney Opera House to name a few. McDonald’s are making green milk shakes these days, and green Guinness is served in many pubs to mark the occasion.  The whole world is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.  

I ask myself the question, how much has the modern celebration of St. Patrick’s day actually got to do his bringing the faith to Ireland? Today we see Patrick represented on Parade Floats in billowing green vestments, swinging a crozier around his head. Is there a danger that this will pass into the realm of fairy tale along the lines of the departure of the snakes from the coasts of Ireland to drown in the sea? I notice today that people are more inclined to say ‘Paddy’s Day’ or even ‘St. Patty’s Day’ and dress up in oversized green furry top hats and fake beards saying ‘Top o’ the morning.’ Here’s a secret… We Irish never say that!
After dinner yesterday, I noticed someone left in a box of Shamrock for us. It is told that St. Patrick used the petals of the Shamrock to illustrate the relationship of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was a simple and ingenious way of explaining that there are three persons in the one God, like there are tree leaves on the one stem, the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Today in Ireland, the fact that March 17th is the Religious Feast Day of our National Patron is not central to the minds of many people I would argue.

Historically, the story of the bringing of the Christian faith to Ireland began before Patrick. Pope Celestine III appointed Palladius to go on a mission to the people of the Western Isles. Bishop Patrick came later on in the year 462 and it had more success, in a sense the wind was at his back. He lit a flame of faith in the people which has been passed down from generation to generation. Over the centuries that flame was a fire and at other times it was just a flicker. During the Penal Laws when the Political System tried to extinguish the Catholic faith altogether, the flame still burned. When Daniel O’Connell secured Catholic Emancipation in 1829 there was a resurgence of the Catholic Faith in Ireland. Remember, Patrick just lit the candle as it were, ordinary people have passed it on down through their families. As powerfully as Patrick handed on the Christian faith, and as generously as Irish missionaries travelled overseas with that faith, ordinary men and women passed it on too. Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers brought their children to the church and told the children about Jesus Christ and it continues to this day. I see parents come to ask for their children to be baptized and I see grandparents bring them to the church to light a candle and say a prayer.
To quote Archbishop Fulton Sheen speaking in 1974; “I believe that we are now living at the end of Christendom. It is the end of Christendom, but not of Christianity. What is Christendom? Christendom is the political, economic, moral, social, legal life of a nation as inspired by the gospel ethic.” If you look around at what is happening currently in modern Ireland, I believe this is happening now and any attempts to ask why are being met by some with dismay, disagreement and even ridicule.

St. Patrick brought the faith to Ireland. The Irish monks brought the faith all over Europe. For generations; Irish religious; nuns, brothers, and priests travelled to developing countries to make a difference to the lives of the people there armed not just with the gospels but with teaching, nursing, medical, and other professional skills. But fundamentally this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the generosity of mothers and fathers telling the stories of Jesus Christ to the children.  The future of the faith in Ireland will be smaller perhaps, but people will choose to be part of it. The flame burns still.