St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, but he had immense and lasting impact in converting Ireland from paganism to Christianity. This week’s clergy discuss the influence of Ireland’s beloved patron saint that continues more than 1,500 years after his death on March 17 in 461 AD.
The Rev. Randolph Jon Geminder
Rector, Saint Mary's Anglican Church, Amityville
Our faith asks and requires many things from us, perhaps true of all major religions. Of all the goals, precepts and positions we are called to embrace, the most difficult one of all is to forgive.
That ability lives vibrantly in the heart of St. Patrick. Grandson of a priest and son of a deacon in the ancient, Romano-British Church of England, he was kidnapped as a teen by Irish pirates and lived in Ireland in servitude as a shepherd for five years. After his escape and return to his native land, he received a vision to return to the land of his imprisonment and teach the Gospel of Christ to his former enemies. About 430 AD, he did just that, evangelizing that land as a bishop. He had every reason not to return, but to hold onto hatred of those who had wronged him, yet he followed the way of Jesus and brought love and forgiveness to a place of darkness.
In this angry and divided age in which we live, St. Patrick's example teaches us that we can turn the tide — and forgive!
The Rev. Terrence Buckley
Priest-in-change, Christ Episcopal Church, Bellport
One of the saddest aspects of the decades of violence in Northern Ireland was that Christianity, which once unified the Irish people, had been hijacked by sectarian extremists. St. Patrick, who had introduced Christianity’s message of love and mercy to Ireland in the fifth century, would surely have been horrified to witness the terrible atrocities committed by those who claimed to be Christians.
I first visited Northern Ireland in 1990, when it was a grim place indeed: More than 3,000 people had been killed, and in the cities of Belfast and Londonderry, massive walls had been erected between Protestant and Catholic communities that had once been neighbors. Their common heritage, which included St. Patrick and his legacy, was being forgotten.
All that changed in the late '90s. The Irish people decided to give peace a chance when both sides signed the Good Friday agreement. Since then, Northern Ireland has enjoyed 20 blissful years of peace.
As I write this, I am in the town of Clifden, County Galway, in Ireland for a family reunion. I pray that this St. Patrick’s Day we follow the example of the Irish people and embrace the legacy of love, unity and forgiveness that Patrick represents. Fifteen centuries later, renewed acceptance of that message is causing people to unclench their fists and open their arms.
The Rev. Thomas Cardone
Chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale
On the Second Sunday of Lent we also commemorate St. Patrick. This day is often associated with soda bread, shamrocks and spirits; however, there is also a spirituality that flows from this outstanding missionary that can be seen in a prayer that is attributed to him called the “Breastplate of Saint Patrick.” In this prayer, we first learn about the power of the Trinity in our lives: “I bind unto myself today / The strong Name of the Trinity ...” When we call upon the Trinity — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — we are confident in God’s protection to guide us every step of the way.
Secondly, St. Patrick reminds us to be missionaries confident that God serves as our teacher who touches our minds and hearts: “I bind unto myself today / The power of God to hold and lead ... / His hand to guide, His shield to ward, / The word of God to give me speech, / His heavenly host to be my guard.”
St. Patrick teaches us that God works with, through and in us. And, finally, we see through St. Patrick how Christ is ever present, around us, within us and in our brothers and sisters: “Christ be with me, Christ within me, / Christ behind me, Christ before me ... / Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, / Christ in hearts of all that love me, / Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
May we remember this Lent to be like St. Patrick, to be open to a spirit of conversion and to grow in greater awareness of the loving God in our lives. St. Patrick, pray for us!