On St Patrick’s Day everyone wants to become a little Irish. I too! In fact I am very grateful to the Irish people because several wonderful Irish individuals have positively impacted my life over the years. First of all, I think of Fr Sean McFerran, a Salesian priest from Ireland, who nurtured my desire for priesthood and encouraged my vocation. He will always be one of my ideals of Catholic priesthood. Then there was Grace Schneider whose maiden name was Grace Mullen. She was my adoptive mother in Milwaukee and she nurtured me in many ways.
Then there are all the Irish nuns who taught in our Catholic schools and ministered around Madras, my native city. I am always in awe of that little island that has enriched the lives and culture of millions around the globe. For all that we are grateful to St Patrick who brought the Catholic faith to the Irish shores.
Many people think of the miracles that are attributed to the saint. In particular they point to how he chased out all the snakes from the Emerald Isle. The real miracle is what he did with his own heart. To understand the true miracle, let us take a quick look at his life.
Patrick was born in 385 AD in the western part of the Roman settlement in Great Britain. His place of birth could have been what is today Wales. He grew up in a comfortable home as his father was a petty Roman official. When he was sixteen years old, he was captured by a band of brigands from Ireland and carried off to work as a slave. The young boy was rudely plunged into harsh conditions serving on a farm, herding cattle in northern part of the island. Instead of making him bitter, his sufferings allowed him to re-capture the Christian faith that he had received as a child. He spent hours praying and meditating on the truths of the faith.
When he had an opportunity to escape six years later, he managed to run away from the farm. He had to undertake a dangerous journey of 200 miles over land and then procured a seat on a ship leaving for the continent. He began to study for the priesthood in Gaul (what is today known as France). When he was ordained a priest, he expressed his desire to return to Ireland to preach the faith. He held no resentment against the people who held him captive for years. He had forgiven them in his heart and wanted to share the treasure of the true faith with them. He returned to Ireland, this time as Bishop, and in thirty years established the Church on that island. He baptized thousands of people, ordained hundreds of priests and built many churches, monasteries and convents. If today Ireland is truly Catholic it is thanks to St Patrick. The true miracle of the saint then is not that he drove out the serpents from Ireland. He cleared his own heart of the resentment he could have justifiably held against the Irish.
Many years ago the Irish faced discrimination even in our own country. They suffered under the British for a long time. For all that, they are a joyous people who seem to imitate their saint. Their sense of humor has regaled populations across the globe and I am grateful for Irish humor. The message from the saint today is that we get rid of the snakes of anger and resentment. Especially during the season of Lent we need to do our best to fast from succumbing to rancor and bitterness.
Max Lucado, a popular Christian writer, pens these memorable lines in his book, The Applause of Heaven:
Resentment is when you let your hurt become hate. Resentment is when you allow what is eating you to eat you up. Resentment is when you poke, stoke, feed, and fan the fire, stirring the flames and reliving the pain. Resentment is the deliberate decision to nurse the offense until it becomes a black, furry, growling grudge.
Let us abstain from resentment. Let us resort to forgiveness. Let us imitate St Patrick who refused to give in to thoughts of revenge or unforgiving attitudes. Let us follow the example of the Master who prayed with his dying breath: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Happy St Patrick’s Day! Happy feast of St Joseph!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...