Gospel Jn: 5 17-30. My aim is to do the will of the One who sent me
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation…
I arise today Through the mighty strength of the Lord of Creation
(Prayer of St Patrick)
Over the years I have felt myself becoming more Irish. My mother was Irish, my father English and I was raised in England. For long, I assumed I was English with a touch of the Irish greenbrush. But I never felt wholly at home with the way the English saw the world and reported it to one another. I saw there was a parallel perception of reality operating in me. The more I got to know Ireland, the more I felt expanded by it. There is no such thing, as racial purity, a false myth of racists or nationalists. In my experience, it is liberating for everyone to know and value their roots and good for any society to celebrate its cultural diversity.

Today every wise person thinks they have some Irish in them. Irishness is a state of mind which allows the best interplay of unbridled imagination with reality in any culture. It is why the Irish outwitted their English oppressors for hundreds of years even though their language, culture, religion and freedom were repressed. Through their faith, humour, love of language, their bond with the land and their music and other arts they turned humiliation into victory. They supplied the best generals and entertainers to their occupiers. In the 20th century this small island half of whom died or were exiled by famine, an island of saints and sinners and great poets, produced eleven Nobel Laureates including four for literature. (There is only minor exaggeration in the claims above which you may fact-check.)
Although the Catholic Church in Ireland has crumbled as a spiritual authority,
the faith of the early centuries is alive and perhaps will be the point for future regeneration to come from. St Patrick was a contemporary of John Cassian who brought the wisdom of the desert to the West in the 5th century. But already there were links between the desert fathers and the Irish church which was originally a monastic church. Patrick had been enslaved, escaped and trained as a monk in France under Cassian’s influence. He returned to Ireland to preach the Gospel using the shamrock as a symbol of the Trinity.
Seven miles off the coast of Kerry, Skellig Michael is a 6th century monastic settlement built on top of a pyramid rock rising sheer from the sea. The monks who built it and prayed there were either mad or mystical or an Irish blend of the two. When I have visited it, I felt like nowhere else the immediate presence of God in a place where heaven and earth embrace. It makes meditation visible.
Today’s celebration warms up Lent for me. I hope St Patrick’s prayer can do so for you.

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021