Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick's Day.
Big, big day for my Irish American family.

I grew up being very fond of St. Patrick without really knowing why. Mere mention of his name generated warm and fuzzy thoughts of my proudly Irish family and our yearly festivities.

Turns out he was born in Scotland.

Was kidnapped when he was sixteen and sold into slavery.

Ended up in Ireland as the slave of cruel pagan master.

Escaped after six years of after being advised to do so by his guardian angel.

Studied under St. Germain and became a priest.

He accompanied the great Saint on many missions but longed to return to Ireland to evangelize.

St. Patrick is great example of how God can use any bad situation for good purposes for those who love Him.
Patrick was able to return to Ireland and evangelize to the pagan culture in their native tongue - which he learned in captivity. His cruel master was also a pagan drudical high priest, so he learned the ways of pagan culture.
Armed with this knowledge, incredible devotion to serving the Lord and a burning desire for salvation for the people of Ireland, he converted their population at an astonishing rate.

He used the three leaves of the shamrocks found throughout Ireland to explain the Holy Trinity.
The Lord worked many miracles through St. Patrick and word of this holy man spread.

But Patrick was not one to rest on his laurels. He knew the value of prayer and sacrifice and still had much work to do.

Here's an excerpt from Newadvent.org's lengthy encyclopedic entry on the great Saint.

St. Patrick, in obedience to his guardian angel, made this mountain his hallowed place of retreat. In imitation of the great Jewish legislator on Sinai, he spent forty days on its summit in fasting and prayer, and other penitential exercises. His only shelter from the fury of the elements, the wind and rain, the hail and snow, was a cave, or recess, in the solid rock; and the flagstone on which he rested his weary limbs at night is still pointed out. The whole purpose of his prayer was to obtain special blessings and mercy for the Irish race, whom he evangelized. The demons that made Ireland their battlefield mustered all their strength to tempt the saint and disturb him in his solitude, and turn him away, if possible, from his pious purpose. They gathered around the hill in the form of vast flocks of hideous birds of prey. So dense were their ranks that they seemed to cover the whole mountain, like a cloud, and they so filled the air that Patrick could see neither sky nor earth nor ocean. St. Patrick besought God to scatter the demons, but for a time it would seem as if his prayers and tears were in vain. At length he rang his sweet-sounding bell, symbol of his preaching of the Divine truths. Its sound was heard all over the valleys and hills of Erin, everywhere bringing peace and joy. The flocks of demons began to scatter. He flung his bell among them; they took to precipitate flight, and cast themselves into the ocean. So complete was the saint's victory over them that, as the ancient narrative adds, "for seven years no evil thing was to be found in Ireland."

The saint, however, would not, as yet, descend from the mountain. He had vanquished the demons, but he would now wrestle with God Himself, like Jacob of old, to secure the spiritual interests of his people. The angel had announced to him that, to reward his fidelity in prayer and penance, as many of his people would be gathered into heaven as would cover the land and sea as far as his vision could reach. Far more ample, however, were the aspirations of the saint, and he resolved to persevere in fasting and prayer until the fullest measure of his petition was granted. Again and again the angel came to comfort him, announcing new concessions; but all these would not suffice. He would not relinquish his post on the mountain, or relax his penance, until all were granted. At length the message came that his prayers were heard:

• many souls would be free from the pains of purgatory through his intercession;

• whoever in the spirit of penance would recite his hymn before death would attain the heavenly reward;

• barbarian hordes would never obtain sway in his Church;

• seven years before the Judgement Day, the sea would spread over Ireland to save its people from the temptations and terrors of the Antichrist; and

• greatest blessing of all, Patrick himself should be deputed to judge the whole Irish race on the last day.

Such were the extraordinary favors which St. Patrick, with his wrestling with the Most High, his unceasing prayers, his unconquerable love of heavenly things, and his unremitting penitential deeds, obtained for the people whom he evangelized.

Wow. Big, big favors that St. Patrick wanted from God.

So it required big prayers and big penance and he was up to the task.
Thank you God and Thank you St. Patrick!
May St. Patrick intercede for us, and help us all to become more fervent in our own prayers and penance.
PS St. Patrick's Breastplate is a favorite prayer, it can be found in the New Advent entry as well , here's the link

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