On this day, Irish people at home and all over the world celebrate our Irishness with music, parades and the cupla focal; rivers and streets painted green and all other kinds of celebrations. It would be a pity, however, if the legitimate emphasis on our national heritage and identity were to obscure the heritage of faith. The arrival of Patrick as missionary preacher, bringing us the good news of Christ, gives us even today the message that is forever old and forever relevant – the assurance that God is with us and that, because of forgiveness, we have reasons to hope.
Patrick in his preaching gave us insights into life, values that we try to live by and ways of worshipping that assist us to come closer to Christ who gives us reasons to hope. While at times we mightn’t have heeded or lived the Gospel message, we know deep down that Christ is the one in whom we hope and green is the colour of hope.
The ability to hope is profoundly connected with the capacity to forgive. Patrick was a man who was able to forgive. Snatched from his parents as a child he was reduced to the life of a slave tending flocks for a foreigner. Separated from his parents and family, he was clever enough to escape his captors and escape. It was probably because of his command of the language that, years later, Pope Celestine asked Patrick to return to the land that robbed him of his childhood through enslavement. What a horrid choice to ask of anyone! No wonder in his Confessions he said that “I never had any reason other than the Gospel for coming back”.
He came to introduce us to Christ. The courage he showed in coming back cannot be overstated. It is one of the great examples of people who turned the other cheek. He had suffered hurt, pain, isolation and despair but rather than rallying others to invade and punish his tormentors he returned to change the Irish himself, to reform our ways. So ‘no’ to revenge, anger, despair but in the witness and example of his life he taught us the Christ-like values of forgiveness and hope.
(B T, 2014)