Deacon Martin Reflects on St Patrick
On holiday, I often stand at the statue of St Patrick in the Octagon in Westport and read the inscription ‘I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many’. As I reflect, I believe that Patrick was totally convinced that God, in His great mercy, poured His grace and strength upon him, calling him, sinner as he was, to do great things for Him.
In Bishop Joseph Duffy’s wonderful book Patrick in his own words there is a quotation from St Patrick which inspires and energises my own calling to proclaim and live out the Gospel:
‘Before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in the deep mud. Then he who is mighty came and in his mercy he not only pulled me out but lifted me up and placed me at the very top of the wall. I must, therefore, speak publicly in order to repay the Lord for such wonderful gifts, gifts for the present and for eternity which the human mind cannot measure.’
It was the acceptance of God’s mercy in his life that allowed Saint Patrick to make the choice to face every danger and opposition in order to introduce so many Irish people to the love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Patrick did not let his vulnerabilities hinder his mission. He knew that God had called him in all his human imperfection to serve him. That sentiment is at the heart of the Lough Derg Pilgrimage. God finds us where we are in life and heals our wounds. In Lough Derg – Island of Quiet Miracles, Rev Professor Eamonn Conway, who has spent many years ministering on the Island, writes:
‘It is an enduring mystery of the Lough Derg pilgrimage that at the same moment as we become painfully aware of our vulnerabilities, with our masks and defence mechanisms stripped away, we can also discover our hidden strengths.’
At the dismissal at the end of Mass we are asked to reveal our hidden strengths with the words: Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
That is exactly what Saint Patrick did. He left his own home to return to the land of his exile, in order to bring our ancestors the beautiful gift of faith. He did so without glory or flourish. He simply preached the Gospel with a tremendous sense of his own unworthiness. He lived out the Gospel in conversation with many and reflected upon the greatness of God in many places including lonely fields and mountain tops, fasting and praying.
The Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage is a mirror of life’s journey. I love the challenge. There are many ways to travel but only one path gets you to your destination. The path up the side of the Reek is rocky; on many occasions you slip and even fall, you are bruised and feel like giving up. The path meanders and there are many dangers on the way. But praying at the stations on the ascent nurtures our pilgrimage journey, just as in life itself. When you reach the tiny church on the summit the view of the wonders of God’s creation is indescribable, sheer beauty like heaven itself.
Let us as ask our patron saint to intercede for our country and its people and the Irish diaspora worldwide, so that we may daily announce the Gospel of the Lord through our words and our actions.