St. Patrick

One of our own

As I write, the third grand-niece has appeared. Yes it’s 3-0 to the ladies in the latest  generational chain of our family tree. Instinctively when we glimpse a newly-born we see signs of their parents, grandparents and relations, a chin, an eye, a nose, a particular way of holding their head. We look for signs of the familiar. I suppose in a way it’s our way of saying of the child “he/she is one of our own.” It used to be a much used phrase to describe someone, sometimes at a social gathering. To hear the words “one of our own” – was their way of saying “we accept you.”

I wonder when I look at St. Patrick, have we truly and perhaps untruthfully made him one of our own. Green vestments, crozier in one hand, shamrock in the other. Not bad for a  Welshman (probably Welsh if we are correct about the location of his birth place “Bannaven Taberniae” as described In The Confessions).  Patrick is a fascinating character and has something for everyone. The unwilling migrant (he came as a slave), member of a very fluid world coming from the declining Roman Empire. He had a deep sense of his identity and a sustaining faith in the most challenging of circumstances. He didn’t need geographical borders to describe who he was. I have always found that in the shifting sands of politics and people’s incessant need to draw borders, that faith in Christ knows no boundaries.  Being part of a believing community has knitted me in prayer with people all over the world. It’s always been so. Take  Willibrod of York, Carlow and then Europe, an Englishman whose signature is the oldest datable signature of an English person. Columbanus the first European who set off via Carlow/Wexford to Bangor, then Annegray and Bobbio in Europe.

Some 1600 years on, it is not unlike the time of St. Patrick. He got his personal identity from prayer. We have Churches and Angelus Bells- whatever about them being silenced. St. Patrick had so little.  All that he needed to remind him of his dignity as a child of God lay within.

In honouring St. Patrick we include and do not exclude. We are part of a large family.

We are all one in Christ- your ethnic origin is irrelevant. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.