st. patrick’s day and living liturgically

A week and a half ago the Archdiocese of Boston celebrated the feast day of her patron, St. Patrick. Since this Roman-turned-Irishman is the spiritual protector of the diocese, the day was raised to a solemnity for the whole Archdiocese, much to the joy of her weary Lenten pilgrims. The feast was also, naturally, celebrated by the Sons of St. Patrick with Mass and opportunity for Confession in the evening.

Although I didn’t expect it or plan for it, I have found spiritual enrichment and a deepening sense of joy by immersing myself more deeply in the liturgical life of the Church. At the March for Life, Br. Isaiah Marie, with his usual sense of wonder and gratitude, remarked about how enriching it was to “live liturgically” as a part of his vocation as a Franciscan. I certainly haven’t  committed to the Church’s liturgically guided way of living as deeply as Br. Isaiah has. However, taking both the penitential spirit of Lent and the joyous occasion of a solemn feast (beginning at 4pm the evening before, of course; 32 hours of feasting!) a little more seriously this year has borne, if anything else, a greater interior knowledge, or a greater direct experience, of these respective spirits of penitence and joy. To put it another way, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier for Sunday to come around before this Lent! The added gift of the solemn feasts of St. Joseph, the Annunciation, and in Boston, St. Patrick, are especially welcome as Holy Week approaches and the wear and tear of the discipline of Lent sets in further. It’s part of the Incarnational spirit of the Church for her to give us those little respites amidst the rigor of the discipline. God the Father, in His providence, and Holy Mother Church know that we, their children, are willing. If honest, we all have a deep desire to make amends for the wrongs that we have done, to rid ourselves of those things that keep us from God. However, since we are of the flesh, we are weak, and so we need the occasional respite.  The Church gives us the opportunity by asking us to celebrate in feasting the memory of the great events in the history of salvation: Mary’s “yes” to the angel Gabriel; St. Joseph’s silent, utterly virtuous action as the husband of Mary; St. Patrick’s courageous and charity-charged trek to be a light in the darkness of a pagan culture.

Speaking of St. Patrick’s Christian witness: we all know the intemperance involved with the celebration of St. Patrick’s day. Obviously, as a saint of the church, St. Patrick stood for no such excessive behavior. Like nearly all other Christian holidays (that is, holydays), popular culture has twisted the meaning of St. Patrick’s day over the course of at least the past few decades, if not longer. I’m not sure if the pagans of antique Ireland had as much of a drinking problem as today’s neo-pagans do on St. Patrick’s day. However, it is St. Patrick’s model of courageous Christian witness in the face of the vices of the current generation that the Sons attempt to imitate, not the culture of excessive drinking that comes out full force on March 17th. More importantly, the Sons, like our patron himself, desire not only to live authentic Christian lives but to go out into the spiritually perilous, anti-Christian culture and bring others to the way, the truth, and the life.

Please pray that God give to the men of the Sons the grace to do so with the patience and burning charity with which St. Patrick did.

Edit 3/29/10 3:16pm – Donato suggested to me that the idea of Sundays and solemnities being a “rest” from the rigor of Lent is an innovation of 70’s progressivist liturgists and is not, at least quite in this way, a part of the Church’s long-standing tradition. I haven’t heard this, but will look into the matter at some point in the future.

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