Message of Archbishop Eamon Martin to the people of Ireland at home and abroad for Saint Patrick’s Day 2023
Today, when people from every continent like to trace even their slightest connections with Ireland and the Irish, Saint Patrick can truly be hailed as ‘a saint for all the world’.
Our patron saint’s name has been carried around the world by generations of Irish emigrants and missionaries – his appeal remains both local and global. In a special way therefore I extend greetings this year to the many migrants who have recently come to Ireland. Céad míle fáilte romhaibh!
When Saint Patrick returned to Ireland as a bishop, almost sixteen centuries ago, he saw himself as a messenger of God’s love and closeness, sent to bring the Good News to the ‘ends of the earth’. He was ready to give his life completely to his new ‘flock’ in Ireland, even though as he says himself in his writings, he had to endure much hardship, many insults and taunts for being ‘a foreigner’ (Confession of Saint Patrick, 37).
Saint Patrick’s personal experience of being trafficked to this island as a teenage slave had a deep and lifelong impact on him. The trauma of being uprooted from family and friends at such an early age gave him a particular empathy for victims of human trafficking. Patrick’s captivity transformed and shaped his whole life and his relationships with God and others. In his slavery and isolation he discovered through prayer a warm and personal friendship with God which he instinctively wanted to communicate to everyone he met.
In that sense Saint Patrick is truly a saint for modern times. His witness and courage speaks to all the world. He challenges us to listen out for the cry of the poor, the ordeal of the migrant, the loneliness of those displaced through war and violence. His experience raises awareness of the injustice of human trafficking which shockingly continues here in Ireland, North and South, in 2023. If we seriously wish to trace our connections with Saint Patrick this week, then we must open our hearts and minds to those who are struggling to survive such cruelty and exploitation in today’s world.
One of the highlights of Saint Patrick’s week this year in Armagh is the arrival into the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral here of a replica of the sculpture, ‘Let the Oppressed Go Free’ by Tim Schmalz. The sculpture graphically portrays the reality of human trafficking and the forced migration of people. A similar replica of the sculpture is also being welcomed this week by Cardinal Timothy Dolan in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. Alongside the Sudanese Saint Josephine Bakhita, perhaps Saint Patrick can be seen as a patron for those around our world today who are victims of human trafficking.
Guím idirghuí Naomh Pádraig ar ár lucht imirce scaipthe ar fud na cruinne. Ba dheoraí Naomh Pádraig é féin tráth. Tuigeann sé ar n’uaigneas agus ar m’briseadh chroí. Guím beannacht, ráth agus séan ár bPatrúin oraibh uilig.