Observed as a Feast in England
Saint Patrick was a missionary bishop who endured many hardships and faced opposition not only from pagans but from his friends and colleagues. Saint Patrick is a model for us in our attempts to evangelise and educate. He is remembered for his simplicity and pastoral care, for his humble trust in God, and for his fearless preaching of the Gospel to the very people who had enslaved him in his youth.
Saint Patrick had many reasons to blow his own trumpet, should he have wished to. Kidnapped as a child by slave traders and taken to a foreign land, he made a daring escape, and with God’s help he returned safe and sound to his home and family. He could have enjoyed fame as the local hero, turning his back on the harrowing experiences of his youth. But as he got older Patrick was moved to return to the land where he had been enslaved. Instead of turning his back on the people who had abducted and mistreated him, he returned to Ireland as a bishop to preach the Gospel. Instead of thanking God that he wasn’t like these people, he was able to identify with them and to live among them. He was to become an effective means of reconciliation and salvation.
We may be inspired by Saint Patrick’s example, but we may also find it helpful to ask if there are any ways in which we take the attitude of the scribes and the Pharisees who plotted and schemed to have Our Lord crucified. When we pray for others, do we hold ourselves aloof from those whose sins seem so grave to us? Do we look down on those who are less fortunate than we are, or those who have made unwise choices and now have to live with the consequences? Do we consider ourselves better than those who have no faith? The truth is that even if our sins aren’t the same, we are all still sinners; we are all made of the same frail humanity as those who seem to have fallen so far away from God.
Just as the humble tax collector begged God for mercy, we too should ask for mercy; but not just for ourselves, so that we can go home justified. We should ask God to have mercy on all humanity. Like Saint Patrick, we should reach out to people beyond the circle of our own friends, walking among them and bringing them God’s mercy and reconciliation.