Homily for March 17, 2016. Feast of St. Patrick, 2nd Patron of Nigeria
Bible Study: 1st Peter 4, 7 to 11. And Luke 5, 1 to 11.
Today, we take a little break from our Lenten series to reflect on Saint Patrick, a great icon of evangelisation in Ireland. Given that Nigeria as a country was mostly evangelized by the Irish missionaries, St. Patrick in a way is also our Patron Saint. If he had not allowed himself to be used by God so powerfully, millions of souls would never have seen the light.
St. Patrick is one of the world’s most popular saints. He was born in Roman Britain and when he was fourteen or so, he was captured by Irish pirates during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. At the time, Ireland was a land of Druids and pagans. Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain and was reunited with his family.
A few years after returning home, Patrick saw a vision he described in his memoir: “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea-and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.'”
The vision prompted his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years, and was later ordained a bishop and sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. Patrick arrived in Slane, Ireland on March 25, 433. There are several legends about what happened next, with the most prominent claiming he met the chieftan of one of the druid tribes, who tried to kill him. After an intervention from God, Patrick was able to convert the chieftain and preach the Gospel throughout Ireland. There, he converted many people -eventually thousands – and he began building churches across the country.
Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.
The mission of catching men and women for God is one that involves making oneself available to be used by God. Peter was shocked at such a huge catch of fish because he knew this was not an ordinary event, while others were rejoicing at the large catch, Peter knew there was something far greater than experience, knowledge and luck at work. He reasoned it out immediately that the one who had ordered him to let down his net for a catch must be nothing short of a Divine Being so he fell at Jesus’ feet and said: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man… and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.” And Jesus said to them: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.”
Just as Peter was not responsible for the great catch of fish, no human being can claim any glory for winning souls. God always works in his own mysterious ways, all we need is to allow him take advantage of our availability. When we listen to God, he speaks to us and his words are powerful in healing souls and bodies, powerful in touching the hearts of people and bringing them to repentance. In whatever capacity we find ourselves in life, we can be used by God.
Apart from preaching, other ways we can be used by God to win souls for him is the very pattern of our life. Hence Peter admonishes in today’s first reading: “Above all hold UNFAILING YOUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER, since love covers a multitude of sins. PRACTICE HOSPITALITY ungrudgingly to one another. 1 Peter 4, 8 to 9. You see, just been nice to strangers can win a lot of people to God.
Let us Pray:
Lord Jesus, use me as you used St. Patrick to bring back your children to you. Amen.
God bless you. Good morning. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you.