Many people know several facts about St. Patrick, and his feast day has become a national phenomenon. Guinness, the parade, corned beef, and much more have become staples of celebrating this saint who helped convert Ireland over fifteen hundred years ago. What often escapes notice is the early life of Patrick.
Born in Britain, St. Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was enslaved for over six years and recalled in his memoir that this was a time where his faith grew tremendously. There was nowhere for him to go in order to pray in community, nor was it popular to believe. However, Patrick noted that he made every opportunity a chance to turn to God:
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was risen, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
In the day, in the night, on the mountain, and in the woods Patrick turned to communion with God.
His enslavement forced him to be limited in how he could pray, but not restrained in his desire to have faith be the cornerstone of his life. Patrick later escaped slavery and returned to Britain to be with his family. Within a short period of time he returned to Ireland (his home of captivity) as a priest in order to set the people free.
He preached Christ crucified and taught the foundational truth of the Christian faith: God is a Trinity. Shamrocks were his platform to portray the utter simplicity and grandeur of our God being a communion of persons. Now, more than ever, we need to be reminded of the glue that binds the world, the Church, and our God together: communion.
We reach the pinnacle of communion with God through prayer. Prayer is not part of our relationship with God, it is our relationship with God. Therefore, Patrick desired to pray to God in every moment and circumstance. Not to win his favor or get a spiritual trophy, but in order to be connected to the God of the universe in such a way that enslavement (even physical slavery) could not keep him from communion.
Recently, we have heard that we are not allowed to gather as a group of fifty people, then it was 10 people. We also have heard that many businesses will be closing or modifying there hours or methods of service (movie theaters, restaurants, etc.). Then we heard that Masses and all parish events are cancelled from now through Easter. We are, in a sense, enslaved to these requirements. The way we used to pray or have wanted to pray must change.
So, our communion with God must take place everywhere that it possibly can. Faith must be sought out in the morning and at night, on the mountains and in the woods, through live streamed Masses and Catholic faith videos. Now, we must be the ones seeking out God while we are held “captive” in our homes. Let us pray constantly and be lifted up to God in every moment.
Today, and in the coming weeks, let us celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by becoming people of true communion, of prayer with the One who is present to us everywhere; especially when He seems far away.