What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of St. Patrick’s Day? Why not ask your spouse, children, or friends? For many, it is images of Leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, corn beef and cabbage, and green beer. What a far cry from the nature of the true honoree ... St. Patrick.
Much of what we know about St. Patrick comes from his Confessio and Letter to Coroticus. Born in the dawn of the 5th century in Great Britain, his father was a Roman deacon. (Yes, Patriticus, the patron saint of Ireland was an Italian born in England!) At 16 years of age, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sold into slavery to work as a shepherd. Cold and alone, he turned to God. In the crucible of his slavery, he grew in holiness and saw God in all of creation.
After six years of captivity, he received a message of God to flee and return home. He miraculously found a ship to France and then returned home. The Lord continued to stir within his heart and he was eventually ordained Bishop and returned to Ireland to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Patrick’s mission in Ireland wasn’t easy. He faced great opposition from the local chieftains, pagan worshipers, and even from other bishops! Yet through it all, God blessed him. He shared the good news of the mercy and love of God and his call to holiness. From his extant letters, it is clear that he was not well educated. He was, however, a man of extraordinary faith and courage. He was not afraid to speak out loud and clear to address the injustices of his day.
Today, more than ever, we need men and women like St. Patrick – true Disciples of Christ – people of faith and of action. In his letter to Coroticus, he called out the Christian General who captured, enslaved and even murdered Irish Christians. St. Patrick addressed the injustice of his day. So must we. Of special concern is any and every form of discrimination which seeks to limit the inherent dignity and worth of every human being from conception to natural death. We are also concerned with a growing intolerance towards people of faith and a growing pressure to limit the mission of the Church because of our respect for human life despite the prescriptions of the Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment. The recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services is another example. Contrary to the assertions of the present administration, nothing is free and the Church and other people of good faith would be forced indirectly to pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilizations. While the Church may be “exempt,” individuals with a well-formed conscience would not. Furthermore, many Catholic institutions are self-insured, rendering the “compromise” irrelevant. Lastly, wouldn’t our insurance money be better utilized to provide quality medical care? For better or worse, I’ve never heard anyone complain that contraceptives were not readily accessible to all.
Not to throw oil on the fire, but now is the time to question certain assumptions. Fertility is not a disease but a blessing. The fact is, in most developed countries, the rate of birth is too low to sustain a viable population. Forced with extinction, governments have been encouraging couples to have more children through economic incentives. They have also had to open their borders to immigrants in order to have sufficient workers. As a result, the cultural heritage of such countries as Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Japan, is in very real danger of being lost forever. If it weren’t for our Hispanic immigrants, we would be in the same position. Check out the facts yourself. They are readily available online.
There are several proposals presently in Congress to ensure that you and I can follow our well-formed conscience. It cannot simply be left to the policies of whoever is sitting in the White House. I hope and pray that you will take the initiative to contact the President and your Congressmen and encourage them to uphold your constitutional rights. For more information, please see our link on www.ststephencatholic.org or visit http://USCCB.org/conscience.
Dear Disciple of Christ, as we approach St. Patrick’s Day, why not download and read his Confessio or Letter to Coroticus. Share with all those you meet the real cause for celebration this day and, please, join me in praying his Lorica or St. Patrick Breastplate.
May God bless you and your loved ones!
Growing Together in Christ,
Father Bill Swengros