St Patrick’s Day Message 2006 from Archbishop Seán Brady

16 Mar 2006


16 MARCH 2006



Last week a group of the Holy Spirit Congregation came to Armagh on pilgrimage
in preparation for the celebration of St.Patrick’s Day. Among the prayers they
offered was Patrick’s own famous prayer for perseverance in Ireland. It begins
with the immortal words: “My only prayer to God is that it may never happen that
I should lose His people which He won for himself at the end of the earth”
(Confession of Patrick N. 58). These words remind me of the question posed by
Jesus in the Gospel, “When the Son of Man comes again will he find faith?”

St. Patrick’s Day unites Irish people all over the world. For Patrick has become
at once a symbol of Irish history and of Irish heritage. But simply to reduce
Patrick to a symbol of that kind, worthy as it may be, without any reference to
his own christian faith distorts the truth and in no way does justice to the real
stature of the man.

Patrick was a migrant, not once but twice, to our land. Despite his rather scary
first experience, amazingly Patrick did return but he himself makes it quite clear
why he did so. “Before God and His holy angels I solemnly and gladly swear that I
had never any motive other than the Gospel and its promises to go back to that nation
from which previously I had only barely escaped” (Confession N.61)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the promises which that Good News contains brought
Patrick back to Ireland. I believe that any authentic celebration of St. Patrick’s
Day must somehow remember and celebrate that fact. A celebration that belittles or
ridicules the values of that Gospel surely offends the man whose memory it is meant
to honour.

Patrick describes himself as a ‘rustic’, an ‘untaught refugee’. But mysteriously in
the providence of God, this ‘rustic’ was chosen in preference to many others who
were apparently better prepared. His choice had nothing to do with his culture or
his education but it had everything to do with his own personal faith and with the
fact that Patrick’s God meant everything to him.

Next week, Intercultural Week is being celebrated. It is being organised by the
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland in conjunction with the National Consultative
Committee on Racism and Interculturalism in Ireland. The week will focus on encouraging
a greater involvement and a greater sense of belonging for people from minority ethnic
backgrounds. The civil law lays down the basic standards but something more is needed
to build a society that is truly inclusive, a society that is welcoming and respectful
of people of different cultures, languages and traditions. I would venture to suggest
that what is really needed is the proclamation and the living of the truth of Christ –
a truth brought by Patrick to our land – the truth of Christ who educates consciences
and teaches the authentic dignity of every human person. The golden rule from Christ
was: ‘treat others as you wish them to treat you’. Is there any better recipe for
building an inclusive society?

+Seán Brady
Archbishop of Armagh

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)