Bishop McKenna's St Patrick's Day Message
St Patrick’s remarkable story is not just for those who claim Irish heritage. He is one of the great figures in the history of the Church. His story tells us what it means to become a Christian: and that the power contained in the message we preach is a person: Jesus Christ.
Patrick was born at the end of the fifth century, on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, somewhere in western Britain. Although he was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, as a teenager Patrick was superficial in his faith and careless in his prayers. When he was about 16, he was captured by raiders and sold into slavery in Ireland. During the six years of his captivity, having lost everything, he discovered that he had not lost God. He came to a new knowledge of God’s love and closeness to him.
Then, after a perilous escape, safely home again with his family, he heard the people of Ireland calling him back. So he set off on a new hard road to be ordained and commissioned to return there and preach the Gospel. The rest is history – mixed in with a few legends!
Here are two lessons from Patrick’s life that are worth thinking about today:
The first is from his own reflections. He saw his experience of exile like that of the chosen people. At home they were thoughtless of God and unfaithful. Only in exile and deprivation did they discover faith.
The second is a comparison that we can take from remembering history. In Patrick’s lifetime, the proud, well-organised Roman Empire had begun to fall apart and descend into chaos. It was nominally Christian, but, like the young Patrick, superficial in faith and careless in prayer. On the other hand, pagan Ireland, afflicted with fears and superstitions, mistrust and strife, heard the Gospel from Patrick and those who followed him and began to discover peace.
St Patrick, slave and exile, Christian and missionary, patron of the Diocese of Bathurst, pray for us today.
Bishop of Bathurst