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Luck of the Irish

shamrockThe secular world LOVES St. Patrick. His feast day is the focus of many celebrations, chiefly involving green beer and wearing green clothing. Everyone is “Irish” for a day and ask for kisses to prove it. I don’t want to rain on any proverbial St. Patrick’s Day parades, but St. Patrick was a cool guy. The myth does not do him much justice, so I thought I would share what I have learned about him and why the Irish are so lucky to have him as their patron.

celticSt. Patrick wasn’t actually Irish.  He was actually of Roman parentage, born in Scotland. What makes him a wonderful saint for teenagers to emulate is his strong faith in the Lord at the age of 14 to 16—depending on the source—an age of doubting and uncertainty and rebellion.  He was kidnapped by Irish pagans and turned to God, fervently praying and placing all of his trust in the Lord.  My teenage son says he admires St. Patrick for his diligence, “His persistence was admirable.” His prayers and his trust are so admirable.  His trust was not in himself and he was not discouraged by the pagans and Druids who kept him as a slave, he turned to God—an admirable action that we should all emulate, especially in our darkest times.  A young man such as Patrick was wise enough to place his confidence in God in his moments of desperation.  He never relented in his faith, and after six years of captivity, he escaped.

Before I was humiliated I was like a stone that lies in deep mud,

and He who is mighty came and in His compassion raised me up and

exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall.

Christianity had only existed for three hundred years at that point, so St. Patrick was a pioneer in miraculous Christianity.  There is an aspect of our faith that has always enticed me, and that is the inexplicability of things.  St. Patrick had dreams in which things were revealed to him.  He knew he was to leave Ireland, but he also realized that despite his escape from Ireland, he knew he was to be called back there. It is his presence in Ireland that is legendary.sp

St. Patrick had a silver tongue.  He preached and converted thousands in a span of forty years. His life was threatened, and despite this, he not only prevailed but converted those who despised him.  That is a gift I wish I had—words that flow so convincingly and stir the spirit within someone—yes, a gift most prized for a teacher. He was humble in his ability to convert the Irish, but his effect on the country was so profound, his name is synonymous with Irish history. What a gift this man was to an entire nation.

If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God

so as to teach these peoples;

even though some of them still look down on me.

He was using visual aids before it was a thing.  The famous explanation of the Holy Trinity is now immortalized by a three-leafed shamrock.

There’s a dear little plant that grows in our isle, ‘

Twas St Patrick himself, sure, that set it;

And the sun on his labor with pleasure did smile,

And with dew from his eye often wet it.

It thrives through the bog, through the brake, and the mireland;

And he called it the dear little shamrock of Ireland… ~Andrew Cherry

Another aspect of St. Patrick that I admire more than anything else was his fearlessness. He scoffed at death, because his trust was in God, not himself. It is unimaginable what he endured: kidnapping, slavery, death threats. He still went back to the island of his great suffering because that is what called him to do. His fear was non-existent.

I will wear green tomorrow and I might even have some corned beef and cabbage, and maybe, just maybe, a beer, probably not a green one though. If this is what it takes to remind myself of this great man who had amazing faith and trust and fearlessness, I will be sure to do it. St. Patrick’s mantra invoking Christ Himself is one for the entire year however:

Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me

The Irish are lucky enough to have a pillar of the Church as a prominent figure in their history and beyond. The luck of the Irish.

 

  • How will you commemorate this great saint this year?
  • What aspects of St. Patrick’s life do you hope to emulate this Lenten season?
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Trust in the Lord: the Stages

trustTrust is an incredibly loaded word. It is an integral aspect of our daily physical and spiritual and emotional lives, and as Catholics, we are expected to live our lives according to some aspect of trust. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, trust is “the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something and one in whom confidence is placed.” This reliance is crucial to our spiritual well-being, because without trust in God, our lives are edgy, depressed, and angry. In my view, there are three stages of trust: trust in our parents, trust in ourselves, and trust in God. As parents, we teach our children to trust us. At some point, we must trust ourselves, which is then connected to the ultimate trust in God, which reverts to our trust in our parents. It is quite a remarkable cycle but one we struggle with, nonetheless.

Babies cry for their needs of food and comfort. When a baby cries, the parent immediately tends to his needs. The baby learns to trust that when he or she needs something, the parent will be there with food, a clean diaper, or simply affection. What a parent teaches his child is what the child knows and trusts. My seven year old daughter often prefaces her statements with, “Mama says…” She trusts what I say and what I show her how to do. She relies on me and has faith that I will remain true to her and her needs. I have to model what I want her to believe. She trusts me, so I share my trust in God and my faithfulness to the Sacraments and my moral behavior on a consistent basis, unrelentingly, because I know she is watching.

mom aAn adolescent seems to trust no one, however, really does revert to the child stage in which he trusts his parents. The trick is that we parents have to allow them to trust themselves and the lessons we have taught them. This self-trust is crucial to an individual’s development and the hardest step we have to take as parents. In my experience with my teenaged students, as well as with my teenaged sons, I have discovered that adolescents want rationale and reasoning– those things that go hand in hand with the free will God has bestowed upon us. Adults must allow adolescents to deduce and trust themselves and their own reasoning. We must, and this is crucial, teach them to pray for themselves as well. Asking God for grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, modeling what they witness as children, and the reasoning we provide for them as adults, enable young people to trust themselves and their own God-given innate morality and conscience.

“To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves…and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted” (John Holt).

We parents have to trust our children too, because in that, we model that we have trusted ourselves to have instilled the correct values according to God’s Word. We also then teach them to be trustworthy, an important virtue to possess. They will mess up; we all do, and that is okay. God calls us to be faithful, not perfect. We have to able to teach and expect our children to be faithful and faith-filled. That is our job.

thy willProbably the longest and most arduous stage in trust is moving away from merely trusting ourselves to steadfastly trusting in God. We constantly want our own way, but that is not what will bring us to happiness and peace. Following God’s Will for ourselves is what brings contentment and satisfaction. We have to become like a child again, leaning on our parents for guidance. We have to trust God as our father, just like we trusted our own parents: “Mama says…” I need to say to myself, several times a day, “God says…” Not only that, but God has proven to us that He is to be trusted; He sacrificed His own SON, and that son modeled trust in His father in the same way, when He said, “…yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Just like the adolescent, we have to pray for grace and trust that the Holy Spirit will speak to us. We also have to not chastise ourselves too vehemently when we make mistakes, because we will make mistakes– and often. That is why we trust in the Sacraments, which are God’s outward signs that He is with us. Reconciliation and the Eucharist, in particular, remind us of the trust we have in our heavenly Father and more proof of His love and trust in us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 35-6).