‘In the wilderness we find your grace; you love us with an everlasting love’
There are moments of crisis and indeed, of unprecedented times such as these, when sometimes a verse from a hymn, the scriptures or a portion of the liturgy seems to sit within our minds more potently than before. The pain of temporary separation is keenly felt reminding us of just how important it actually is to us as a community and the wider church to meet with regularity, to sing hymns together, to pray, to open the scriptures and to break bread. But as all things pass, so shall this and we will be restored to the full fellowship of the body of Christ in time. These strange events, so full of worry and concern, have made for a peculiar lent and a very different experience of abstinence. Many of the gatherings we usually enjoy have ceased and no more is that apparent than today; a day on which our streets are usually bustling with parades and watchers and festivity.
Today we remember the boy Patrick, taken captive to a place he did not wish to be. He made his escape yet would know the fear and danger of return within a very short space of time. He came to this land so dominated by fear and suspicion, of strange practices and clashing tribes who had a thirst for the heroic in warfare. Into this maelstrom came Patrick to declare the love of God that casts out all fear, the joy of knowing forgiveness and a perfect union with God. This ‘sinner, the most unlearned of men, the lowliest of all the faithful’ would, out of the midst of his own brokenness and vulnerability, produce a church in this land, establishing the faith we now hold dear. Patrick’s life was to be marked with not only one, but with a number of wilderness experiences from the beginning; the isolation of kidnap, the return to a land he knew fraught with danger, the criticism of his ministry from his fellow bishops and the pain of learning of the slavery and murder of those newly baptised by Patrick carried out by Coroticus. Despite these extreme, devastating and fearful wilderness experiences, Patrick held to his faith in courage and hope. We remember and give thanks for this saint on this day who lived through interesting times, with nights when he must have pondered if he would see the new day and times when he lived with chaos and confusion. Through it all he clung to the faith he would plant here, watered and tended by successive generations of which we are part.
I pray that our current wilderness is short, that this virus will be soon constrained and that our current endeavours now will enable a swift containment. I am still available for pastoral support and help and continue to endeavour to keep in contact with those isolated, sick, alone, the grieving and fearful at this time. Please remember your friends and neighbours, and the community of our parish, who may appreciate a phone call or any practical help you can provide. Continue also to remember in prayer all who are on the frontline; our government, the Gardai, the army, the ambulance teams, the doctors and nurses and the chaplains and for all effected by this virus; the ill, both at home and in hospital.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ before me, Christ beside me.
Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord,
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.