Five years ago on this day I was attending the Novena of Grace, which is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit who, in the Catholic tradition, is regarded as a patron saint of missionaries. (By the way, for those of you who are not Catholic, ‘novena’ is nine consecutive days of prayer and reflection; first ‘novena’ – though it was not called that way – happened after Jesus ascended into Heaven and the disciples stayed in Jerusalem to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit).
The Novena of Grace was in my parish church and I was ‘daydreaming’ how it would be wonderful to have a novena to St. Patrick; after all, Patrick was our own local ‘missionary giant’. At the end of the Mass I went towards the back of the church, to the table where you could write a prayer petition and put it in a prayer basket. You know what I saw on that table? A little booklet with a title ‘St. Patrick’s Novena’. Yay! I never knew such a booklet existed, but – rightly or wrongly – I thought that was for me, so I took it. When I counted the days from that day till St. Patrick’s Day I realised there were exactly nine days to it, so I got the booklet on the first day of the novena to St. Patrick! And lucky you, that day is today, so if you wish to join me on this journey we will try to prepare a little for St. Patrick’s feast in the coming days. I will aim at posting short reflections about Patrick daily.
Day 1: Captivity and encounter with the true God
Patrick, as we know, was not born in Ireland but in what is today known as Wales. At the age of 16 he was taken into captivity to Ireland, and as he admits in his “Confessions” at that time he “did not know the true God”. This is the image I have of that incident as it was happening: Patrick was on a ship, with thousands of others being kidnapped at the same time, and as they are being taken to Ireland, the Trinity looks down from Heaven (and God’s gaze, like the lights on a stage, focus on Patrick) and God says: “This is the lad I want, I choose him to do my work”. That decision and Patrick’s openness to it changed the history not only of Ireland – but it changed Patrick too.
Today we pray that as God looks at us, at Ireland and the world – as He looked at Patrick – that we may be transformed by His Love; may it be for our own salvation, for the good of the world and for God’s purposes to be fulfilled in our lives. St. Patrick, pray for us
A thought for the day (from St. Patrick’s Breastplate): “Christ be with me, Christ within me”.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, March 2012)