Each year as I plan for the season of lent one of my first priorities after I have decided what I’ll abstain from is to check when Saint Patrick’s Day falls.
This is a very important issue because it forms an oasis which provides some safe haven during all the seriousness of fasting. You don’t want the national saint’s feast day to fall either too early or too late. If it’s too early like this year you could be faced with another four or five long weeks before your chocolate bars or crisps see the light of day. If Saint Patrick’s Day comes too late during lent you nearly feel robbed of respite because Easter is only round the corner. A few years ago I remember Saint Patrick’s Day falling on the beginning of Holy Week.
Every year I listen to debate about what days count as Lenten, whether we should include Sunday or the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. I’m reliablly told by some experts you’re not supposed to fast on a Sunday because it’s the day of the Resurrection. It seems if you add all the days from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday and subtract the 6 Sundays you arrive at forty days. Some smart-alec will claim Jesus’ hardly went out into the desert and fasted from forty days and then said to his disciples, well you can follow my example but it’s alright to take off Sundays and Saint Patrick’s Day. Have you ever paused for a moment and asked the question, who is the most important voice in my life, who do I listen to the most? At a deeper level is the challenge to reflect on the reasons why we hold people in esteem or respect their opinions. Do we admire people because of their position in society, maybe their power, fame or wealth? Social status is a reality which is valued by many in the world but there exists another power. Evidence of this power is reflected in the lives of those who stand up for their beliefs regardless of the cost. These are the women and men whose actions are based on the strength of their convictions; there exists no contradiction between what they preach and what they witness too in their actions. On a week when we celebrate the feast of Saint Patrick we have to look beyond the green festivities and examine the heart of the Christian message which inspired Patrick. Life wasn’t easy for Patrick, kidnapped and held hostage far from his family and loved ones. Reduced to a life or slavery he could have been tempted to turn his back on God. FWhen Patrick made his escape we come to the most remarkable decision of his life when after years of slavery he still had the courageand the humility to respond to God’s call. Despite the hardship he endured Saint Patrick couldn’t turn away, instead he agreed to lead a mission to introduce the gospel to the peoples of Ireland. Over these next few days and weeks amid all the competing voices have we the ability and courage to follow God’s call?