Cathy Goretsky’s Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent 2013
REFLECTION FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT 2013
Not only because the blood in my veins is 50% Irish, but because of the amazing character traits of St. Patrick, I wanted to make this week’s reflection about him. My focus, like everyone else’s this week, has been on our new Pope, Francis. He seems to be a humble man, one who cares greatly for the poor and one who will, I believe call us not only to greater faith, but to forgiveness. When you read the story of Patrick, it really reads like an amazing adventure tale! Here he was, a teenager, living with his Roman parents in Britain and at the age of 14-16, he was kidnapped and taken to a pagan country to work for years as a slave. Apparently, like many teenagers (and adults) today, his faith was not very strong and his prayer life nothing to write home about.
But out in those fields tending the sheep, Patrick began a quiet and sincere conversation with God. His prayer life became so strong that, in his own words he says: “The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.” “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.” (From the web article cited below from Catholic.org) After several years spent away from his family, he had a dream that enabled him to escape and make his way back to Britain and to his family.
Years later, Patrick became a priest, and despite the memory of the years of hardship as a slave in Ireland, in his heart he felt the call to return to the Irish people and to tell them about God. Following this tug of God on his heart resulted in Patrick being responsible for the conversion of the Irish country to Christianity. Patrick had to have found the inner strength not only to forgive those who had enslaved him, but to love them enough to go back to bring them the message of love!
Patrick’s ability to forgive is a shining example for us these last couple of weeks of Lent. Sometimes, although we often hash over memories of the times when the words and actions of others have hurt us, what we may realize in our own time of quiet prayer is that the first person we need to forgive is ourselves. How can we ever believe that God has forgiven us for the things we know we have done to offend Him if we are unable to forgive ourselves? Once we truly understand the awesome gift of God’s forgiveness, it will make it possible for us to find forgiveness for others in our hearts. Patrick can be our example this coming week.
Yes, we love to wear green and celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day, even those who are not Irish, and that’s okay. Patrick himself was not Irish, but later in life, he said he felt that he was Irish because he had experienced God in such a powerful way when first living in Ireland as a slave. Anyone can have an “Irish heart”. The Irish people have known persecution, deprivation, separation, war and the sadness of death because of famine. The hearts of many an Irish mother grieved over her children who left to find a better life in America. For many of those mothers, it meant they would never see their children again. No wonder much of the folk music of Ireland sounds sad and the lyrics, when you really listen to them, can bring tears to your eyes.
Thinking about our ability to forgive one another or to forgive ourselves made me realize that in order to forgive, we must first love. Love is the basis of God’s forgiveness for even those who sentenced Him to death on a cross. It is love that causes Jesus to be able to say “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It was Patrick’s love for the Irish people and his desire for them to know that God loved them that allowed him to forgive them for the years he spent in captivity and to spend so many years preaching and spreading Christianity all across Ireland.
Whatever we have been able to accomplish in our efforts to “keep” Lent these past weeks, we still have two weeks to focus on disciplining ourselves to really learn how to love and how to forgive, not only those who have hurt us deeply, but ourselves for the things we have done that were hurtful to others and the things that we have failed to do that might have made someone else’s life a little more pleasant.
God loves us. What does that statement really mean to us? Maybe this week we can spend some time meditating on just the words God loves me. Sometimes it is the simple things that we just gloss over and allow to pass us by without really focusing on what they mean to us. Whatever else the season of Lent may be, surely those three little words are the essence of the life and the mission of Jesus. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that because to internalize those words will surely change the way we think and act toward others.
I have included some facts about St. Patrick below. Enjoy! Make the most of this next week!
03/17/13 – (See below information from Catholic.org.)
The following information about St. Patrick is taken from the website Catholic.org.
St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world’s most popular saints. Patrick, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 461.
There are many legends and stories of St. Patrick, but this is his story: Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies.
As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. At that time, Ireland was a land of Druids and pagans. Patrick learned the language and practices of the people who held him.
During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote: Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God, in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, where he reunited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.”
He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick’s message.
Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well). Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.
Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.