St. Patrick Speaks To Us Today
Feast Day March 17th
St. Patrick (AD 390-461, patron saint of Ireland, Nigeria, Engineers, Paralegals) is known by millions as the patron saint of Ireland, (though he was not Irish) who brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle in the 5th century. Overtime, memories of St. Patrick however have become clouded by good-natured parades in general with plenty of parties, green beer and Irish stews. But if asked, how would we describe this missionary saint’s world-changing contribution to evangelisation? Even more are there lessons we can learn from Patrick that can inspire missionary work in Japan? Or in the season of Lent, can we gain any insights from the saint for Lenten promises we can keep? The following extract, taken from the Confession of Saint Patrick summarises the saint’s absolute faith in God, his missionary objective and willingness to overcome any and all trials for God’s plan for him.
I came to the Irish peoples to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.
If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for his name. I want to spend myself in that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor. I am deeply in his debt, for he gave me the great grace that through me many peoples should be reborn in God. …
It is among that people that I want to wait for the promise made by him, who assuredly never tells a lie. He makes this promise in the Gospel: They shall come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world.”
Patience and Perseverance, Overcome Trials - Remain Faithful
St. Patrick certainly had many tough challenges, voices of resistance, and even life-threatening experiences in Ireland, yet he chose to remain faithful to God. Even when his faith was once as lukewarm milk, it was his time as a slave that not only developed his love for the Irish but it also tempered his faith into a steely force for evangelisation. Later in life, he was faced with other severe obstacles ranging from jealous bishops who tried to stop his missionary work to an egregious betrayal by a childhood friend, a fellow priest who publicly disclosed an act that the saint revealed in the sacrament of confession. Patrick was angered by the former and devastated by the latter. He wrote his ‘Confession’ in part because of these trials. He was not broken however. The trials of his life made him stronger, his faith, bearing many tests, only intensified, driving him to even greater commitment and indeed success in the evangelisation of Ireland.
All of us have been called by Christ to engage in the spreading and sharing of the gospel, whether as priest, sister or lay person. Like St. Patrick, we can expect setbacks especially in Japan where we face a secular modernist world that remains generally skeptical of religion, knows little about the joy of the gospel nor about the message of love for our fellow brothers and sisters. We may even find unfounded resistance from within some church circles. Japan is not unlike the Ireland of St. Patrick. Yet this should be seen as a great commission for us, the opportunity to experience the joy that St. Patrick had when overcoming the barriers to evangelisation and to feel the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us, as He did with St. Patrick. Be prepared to embrace your trials as vehicles for not only advancing the power of your faith but also to enable you to truly discover the presence of the Holy Spirit working through you in your missionary life.
This Lent, let us reflect on any difficult personal relations or trials we may have and see them as opportunities God provides us for spiritual growth, a deepening of our trust in God, and occasions to learn to forgive, as St. Patrick did.