17th of March, Saint Patrick´s Day
On the feast day of the national apostle we are minded to celebrate our faith at liturgical services. As it is a civic holiday also there are many parades and other events held throughout the country and indeed abroad, wherever the Irish have put down roots.
We celebrate the proclamation of the Gospel in this country and can only be grateful that it happened as far back as the fifth century. In times past, indeed in the relatively recent past, it was quite common to describe Ireland as a Christian country. What does that mean?
One suspects that the more commonly held meaning was that the vast majority of people on this island belonged to one of the Christian churches, the Roman Catholic Church being the largest of these and that large numbers attended church on a regular basis. Nowadays the sense of belonging to a church is more fluid for many people than in the past and church attendance is certainly much lower than it was a generation ago.
Are Christian values well assimilated into our way of living? A positive answer to this question would suggest that Ireland could be described, at least in part, as a Christian country. If the answer were to be in the negative, however, then the title would not be justified.
Christian values such as: a sense of justice, solidarity with those most in need, availability to help one´s neighbor, a generous welcome, significant numbers of people attending church, respect and esteem for others and a missionary tradition are qualities that can be verified in our midst.
However, issues such as homelessness, the growing gap between rich and poor, the unscrupulous practices of drug barons, resistance to the acceptance of refugees and the abuse scandals all give pause to the notion that Ireland could be described as a Christian country.
So perhaps the question for Christians is not Is Ireland a Christian country? but rather, How can we improve our living of Christian values?
To celebrate St. Patrick is to remind ourselves of someone whose life´s work had such an enormous influence and far reaching consequences on our history. Let us honour his memory by living more consistently the Gospel he proclaimed.
From the breastplate of St. Patrick:
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.