Sancta Sophia News Blog

St Patrick’s Day Celebrations

From the Catholic Weekly

A congregation of hundreds attended the St Patrick’s Day Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on March 17 to join in what Fr Brendan Quirk described as “a day of celebration for all things Irish”.

“Whether we are native born Irish or the descendants of Irish, we owe an incredible debt to the Irish pioneers and convicts who came to this land and who helped forge this society and built up our Catholic churches and parishes,” he said.

Fr Brendan, parish priest of the St Mary MacKillop parish of Rockdale City, concelebrated Mass with chief celebrant Bishop David Cremin, visiting Irish priest Mons Donal O’Riordan, of Castleisland in County Kerry, Sydney Irish chaplain Fr Tom Deverux and Fr John McSweeney.

“Patrick spoke stridently about the power of Christ to transform our lives and attitudes,” Fr Brendan said. “By embracing the Gospel message of resurrection, our lives, and the lives of others can be transformed for the better.

“He spoke this message of Christ’s love fearlessly and consistently. He spoke this message, not with concern for himself, but with a deep concern and compassion for others. He wanted people, even those who enslaved him, to know and experience the love of God and the power of God’s forgiveness.

“His life was an example of, and a witness to, the immense capacity of God to radically change our lives.”

Bishop Cremin prayed for the people of Japan, following the recent earthquake and tsunami and amid concerns over Japan’s nuclear power plants.

Homily: St Patrick’s Day, 2011, by Fr Brendan Quirk at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

“As we gather today, the twenty-fifth anniversary of this organised Mass in honour of St Patrick, I am very conscious of the importance of spreading the message and preaching the word. On behalf of all of us, I wish to thank those who had the foresight and the drive to promote and organise the first one 25 years ago, and who have continued over the years to spread the word. Especially I should like to thank those involved in the Irish media here in Sydney who have followed in the footsteps of St Patrick to remind us that Christ is at the centre of this feast.

The celebration of St Patrick’s Day has come to be a day of celebration for all things Irish, and indeed, we do so. Whether we are native born Irish or the descendants of Irish, we owe an incredible debt to the Irish pioneers and convicts who came to this land and who helped forge this society and built-up our Catholic Churches and Parishes

Sadly, I think St Patrick’s Day increasingly seems to be marketed as a day to go to pubs and party hard & the message is, “If you don’t join the party then you’re missing out and not truly celebrating your Irish heritage.” Now I’m not against anyone partying or enjoying good craic, but what a simplistic approach if that is all it is about.

Never mind the truth that today is a Christian Feast Day celebrating the message of Christ that St Patrick gave voice to in his own life. Let’s remember that Patrick was not himself Irish; that as a youth he experienced human trafficking by being sold into slavery; that he found Christ and chose to preach Christ’s message to his persecutors.

Patrick spoke stridently about the power of Christ to transform our lives and attitudes. By embracing the Gospel message of resurrection, our lives, and the lives of others can be transformed for the better. He spoke this message of Christ’s love fearlessly and consistently. He spoke this message, not with concern for himself, but with a deep concern and compassion for others. He wanted people, even those who enslaved him, to know and experience the love of God and the power of God’s forgiveness. His life was an example of, and a witness to, the immense capacity of God to radically change our lives.

His message still rings out loud and clear, though not all in our society are capable, or willing, to heed its call. Patrick’s message is the same as the message of the Gospels:

to personally repent from sin and embrace Christ; to turn away from the temptation to follow our egos and conform ourselves to the mind of Christ.

This is not simply some kind of nice, pious, religious expression. It is a call to be radical, to be a prophet of hope in a world that is fast forgetting Christ. To respond to those who say that God does not matter and that morality is whatever you want it to be. To stand along with those who are most vulnerable and whose voices are being hushed silent by powerful institutions and lobby groups like the media, the government, big business, even, dare I say it, at times the Church. Patrick is a prophet sorely needed today.

In 2011, there are still many people in our society whose situation cries out in agony for someone to hear their plea. I think of people whose trust has been shattered through the abuse of power and privilege, whose belief and faith in God has been crushed by the personal sins of clergy and representatives of the Church. I think of the cover-ups that have taken place. Where were the voices for these people? And let’s not just point the finger at others, each of us is capable of rationalising things in our own minds to suit our own ends. Each of us is complicit in systems that sometimes fail the weak and vulnerable.

Earlier this week, Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six. Along with the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, they were wrongfully and unjustly imprisoned by the British criminal justice system for crimes they did not commit, and which the police knew they did not commit. They spent many years in prison and their lives and those of their families were destroyed. Twenty years later, those responsible for such corrupt and reprehensible violation of basic human rights still have not been brought to justice or held to account. Racism and religious bigotry knows no bounds and should be denounced. But where is the outcry? Wait long enough and people forget, the passion dies down, and the injustice continues.

It happens here in Australia. It isn’t that long ago that religious sectarianism was part and parcel of life. Many of you older members here well remember the days when, “Catholics need not apply.” Have we moved very far from those days? There is still much discrimination today in our supposedly enlightened society. Certainly there is still a negative attitude towards our indigenous brothers and sisters. Proportionally their numbers far exceed that of the general population in terms of being arrested and imprisoned. Their life expectancy is far below that of non-indigenous Australians. Many Australians begrudge any attempt to improve their situation.

And what about asylum seekers, who are wrongfully and shamefully locked up in detention centres for months, even years, on end? Over 90% of those imprisoned in our detention centres here in Australia have been awarded refugee status. They are not illegal immigrants, yet they remain behind bars. It is an appalling situation that has gone on for many years, regardless of which party is in office. The world has millions and millions of displaced persons, and we, with our land and our wealth whinge and complain about a mere thirteen thousand. Where is the Christian heart of compassion and the strident call of St Patrick to bring liberty to captives and justice to the oppressed?

It does not take long for such voices to be hushed. It does not take much to forget the message that Patrick preached, it only requires that good people do nothing. I am reminded of the famous words of Martin Niemöller, a Protestant German Pastor imprisoned during the Nazi years. He reflected after the war,

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

The message of St Patrick is Christ in all things. How will we continue to spread the true message Patrick brought to our ancestors so long ago? However we continue to spread the message, in word and action, we know we do not do so alone. In St Patrick’s own words:

I bind to myself today

God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

Many thanks, and every blessing upon you and your families this St Patrick’s Day.”

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