Friday in the Third Week of Lent
Feast of St. Patrick
March 17, 2023
Today’s Lenten reflection focuses on the life and witness of Saint Patrick, the famous Apostle to the Irish and one of the three patron saints of Ireland. Patrick was most likely born on the northwest coast of Britain (or possibly the southwest coast of what is now Scotland). When he was a teenager, he lived his life in a way that was far from God. One fateful evening, an Irish slave raider captured him and carried him away to Ireland, where he was sold into enslavement and endured forced labor for six years. During this time, he turned to God with all his being, and after some years he was guided by God to escape. He traveled to the European continent, where he trained as a priest, perhaps at Lerins in Gaul. At some point he had a vision that the Irish were pleading with him to return and bring the Good News of Christ. He returned with a small team and led an immensely successful mission mainly to the north. He set up a diocesan system of pastoral care, one of the first of its kind in Ireland. His two writings are the earliest autobiographical texts from Ireland. His vulnerability and lack of polished Latin combined with his passion and outgoing personality enabled him to relate to the common people and turn Irish hearts to Christ. He advocated for the rights of other enslaved persons and used donations from other Christians to purchase freedom for slaves in Ireland. He was able to inspire the imagination of the northern Irish people, and legends about him and his miracles abound throughout Ireland, from the northernmost tip of the island to the far southern peninsulas. Patrick is often associated with the shamrock and with a legend that he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, but such associations do not likely reflect historical fact. In 1631, his feast day, March 17, became an official opportunity for Irish Christians to break their Lenten fast in order to celebrate his life and legacy, usually with a dinner of boiled bacon or ham (or corned beef in Irish American communities in the United States), and in 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City.
God of liberation,
Who in your providence chose your servant, Patrick,
To be an apostle to the Irish,
To boldly confront his captors,
To baptize those who were lost, and
To bring them into the light and the truth of your Word,
Give us that boldness, keep us in that light,
And free us from what binds us,
So that we may be set free to proclaim your glory.