15 March 2008
Cardinal Seán Brady’s sermon for St. Patrick’s Day Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh
Once upon a time the preacher stood up on St. Patrick’s day and said:
Today we all salute St Patrick. Today, Irish people, across the world celebrate the blow-in saint who brought us the Good News of Jesus Christ. Today, because of Patrick, millions of people are proud to say: “I am Irish”.
St Patrick has no hesitation in telling us Who he is and where he is from.
“I, Patrick, a sinner” he writes – “a most simple country man, the least of all the faithful, am held in contempt by many. I had for my father the Deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest who belonged to the village of Bannavem Taberniae”
Then, in words remarkably similar to what we heard from the prophet Jeremiah earlier, Patrick says God did five things for him.
- God took note of his humility, took pity on his youth and his ignorance.
- God was watching over him before Patrick even knew God.
- God strengthened and consoled him as a father consoles his son.
- Even when he did not believe in God, God had continued to believe in him.
- Even when he was living his life carelessly, God was all the time caring for him. Patrick might have given up on God, but God certainly hadn’t given up on Patrick.
The lesson of the young St. Patrick is that we can all make the journey from forgotten faith, to repentance, to friendship with God. Patrick reminds us that God is forever young, forever open to each one of us and full of compassion.
My hope, on this St. Patrick’s day, is that more and more Irish people, who have lost their connection with the faith, will rediscover it and rediscover what St. Patrick called: the joy and love of faith.
This year we have a rare occurrence – St. Patrick’s Day comes at the beginning of Holy Week. During Holy Week parishes in Ireland will he holding services of reconciliation. These services will give all of us the opportunity to make our peace with God by going to Confession. If we do so, I am quite sure we too will discover a God who takes pity on us and who consoles us and who will help us to turn back, with all our hearts, to the Lord our God.
I want to make a special appeal to young people to renew their faith in God’s mercy and to take up this unique opportunity to be enfolded in God’s grace by availing of the opportunity for confession. Have no doubt, God will welcome you with open arms. Don’t let a busy life or disappointment with the Church, or the fear of coming to confession, after many years keep you away. Yes we have the enthusiasm to celebrate the life of Patrick, do we have the courage to imitate his humility? Patrick said: “I, Patrick, a sinner”. Do we have the courage to say the same?
Where are we from? We are from Ireland but we are also from God. God is our first beginning. But what is our final destination? Yes, of course, we rejoice in our culture and heritage, but we also rejoice in the fact that our names are written in Heaven. Faith, brought by Patrick, tells us that Heaven is our real homeland.
The events we celebrate in Holy Week have opened the road for us to our real home, Heaven. May St. Patrick help us all to travel that road to our real home, now and always.
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)