A happy St Patrick's Day to you all from Ireland. As we celebrate the life and teaching of our patron saint, we pray that he will intercede for all your needs, and we ask you to pray for Ireland.
Today is the celebration of the mystery of faith - the Christian faith, which St Patrick taught. He was not the first Christian missionary to Ireland - we already had Christians here, and even a number of Saints. Neither was he the first bishop to the Irish - St Palladius was here before him. St Patrick, however, seemed to have had a particular charism, he travelled around the country preaching the faith, converting and baptising, to an extent which had been unknown up to that time. He initiated a spiritual revolution among a barbarian people, and for this he is the Apostle of Ireland.
So in our Masses we honour this holy man, our Father in faith, and our celebrations as Christians must first and foremost be founded on faith. Yet, for many people "Paddy's Day" is not about faith at all. As I said in my homily at Mass this morning, there are people in Ireland who are trying to wipe out Catholicism, and today they will be raising their glasses in honour of "St Paddy". Meanwhile the rest of the world are dyeing their rivers green, eating cabbage and downing gallons of alcohol as they celebrate "Irishness".
The marriage of St Patrick and "Irishness" is only a recent phenomenon. It developed in the 19th century when Irish Nationalists hijacked the feast of the Patron of Ireland to further their cause. The St Patrick's Day parade was originally a civil rights march, and as for the leprechauns, the diddly dee and the clay pipes, well that's just stereotyping, and it drives some of us Irish crazy. There are many who think we still live in thatched cottages, have red beards (even our women?) and sprinkle our conversation with "begorrahs". God help us!
Even worse than all this is that many of those out "drowning the shamrock" never darken the door of a church, and yet the man they celebrate was a man who wanted to bring the Irish to God, to keep them faithful to the Mass and to the practice of the faith. There is no doubt that we need to reclaim St Patrick and his feast and begin to divorce it from nationalism. Ironically, it makes no difference if one is Irish to celebrate this feast, it's all about Christianity. Indeed today the British may well celebrate, not Irishness or the Irish among them, but that a son of Britain who left his people and his land to proclaim the Gospel among an alien people. In this St Patrick serves as an important link between Britain and Ireland, a link which is firmly grounded in the Christian faith. And, it seems, there may well be a church in Britain which was built by the Saint himself - see here for the article.
In other news: it seems it may be the end of the road for the Society of St Pius X: the Vatican has not accepted their response to the doctrinal preamble - it is inadequate for the restoration of full union. A friend said to me yesterday that it is all a game to the SSPX - they think that because the Pope desires reconciliation they can do what they want because they think the Pope will just bring them back in without their having to say they were wrong. They will still continue to reject Vatican II. It is an interesting position, and I think there is a level of truth in it. Traddie blogs are convinced that reconciliation will take place without their having to move an inch because they are in the right, they believe.
Well, if they do not move an inch, then there should be no reconciliation: they must accept Vatican II or stay where they are. Many think this row is all about the liturgy and so they think that as Pope Benedict has given greater freedom for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form the way is open. This row is not about the liturgy, it is about the Church's apostolate and her outreach to the men and women of our time, her holding to the truth, but also seeking to engage with those of other faiths and none. The Society has until April to clarify its position: the ultimatum has been issued. The Vatican, it seems, may well be tired of playing games.
What could happen here? Well one commentator said that it could lead to a declaration of formal schism, the reimposition of the excommunication on the bishops and priests, and an interdict on their lay followers. We must pray for them.