Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland and of the Archdiocese of Boston. Much has been written about St. Patrick to which I direct your attention, but as for me, in my writing today, I present a slightly different perspective.
Last night as I prayed in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, I asked the Lord to inspire my writing today, as I have been absent for several days. I read the scriptures for today’s liturgy, which served as no muse. When that happens, the Lord usually has something waiting for me at daily Mass the next day. Today proved no exception.
Because Saint Patrick is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Lenten fast is set aside, a dispensation being granted by the bishop, and we celebrate Patrick’s feast. I never quite got that dispensation thing, but must admit in my younger years, I took full advantage of indulging in that which I had given up. As I grew, the whole idea seemed kind of silly to me, “If you’re going to fast, then just fast. What’s the point?” Today’s liturgy provided the answer.
The first thing I noticed was the priest’s vestments. Not dressed in purple, he donned white to celebrate the feast day. As Mass progressed we prayed the Gloria, absent from our Sunday liturgies for two weeks. I can’t tell you my delight in praying that prayer at Mass. I didn’t even notice how much I missed it until I prayed it this morning. I prayed it with fervor and gratitude, giving honor, glory, and praise to God.
I think sometimes this is one of the things lacking in our daily walk, at least I can say that for myself. Scripture actually commands us to give praise to God. One of the neat things about praising God is its transformative power. When we praise God, we inevitably thank Him. Standing in a posture of praise and gratitude shifts our focus away from ourselves and onto God. It helps to place us in right relationship with Him – He the creator and we the creature; He the Lord and we His people. I have found it also helps me to remember that everything I have and do and of which I am capable is from Him. It is all His first, given to me to use for His greater glory – a very welcome redirection.
The next thing I noticed was that the readings were different. From the First Letter of Peter, the lector proclaimed a beautiful verse, “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pt 4:8) Every time I hear that verse, I pray, “Oh, Lord, my sin great, please help me love enough that I may cover my many sins.” Later in the gospel, we see Peter fall at Jesus’ knees and cry out, “Depart from me, oh Lord, for I am a sinful man!” I am Peter. We are Peter.
How often do we let shame and feelings of inadequacy tempt us to send Jesus away? But that’s the wrong response. The enemy wants us to do that! At that moment, Jesus calls us to love more. He knows our weakness – he walked among us. He knows our pain – He is the Lord of all. He knows our hearts – he dwells within us. The greatest tools we have as Catholics to help us grow in love are prayer and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession. I do know my weakness and, “my sin is before me always,” (Ps 51:3), but I know too, that “equal to His majesty is the mercy that He shows.” (Sir 2:18) He has not left me orphaned to my own devices to grow in love. He gives me Himself. He gives us all Himself.
Today’s dispensation, given by my bishop, makes sense. It serves to remind me to praise God and to love Him “with all my heart, soul, and mind, and my neighbor as myself.” (Mk 12:33)
So today, Praise the Lord! In all things, big and small! Praise the Lord our maker!
Saint Patrick, pray for us! Anne