A Message from the Bishop – Two saints for the Lenten journey

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During this second week of Lent we celebrate two popular saints. On March 17th, Saint Patrick, the Apostle to the Irish, the national patron of Ireland and on March 19th, Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary and the Patron of the Universal Church. In the liturgy of the Church Saint Joseph’s Day is observed as a Solemnity because of his personal role in the history of salvation. Saint Patrick’s Day is observed as a memorial.
Both of these Saints of God can assist us with our Lenten journey to Easter. Both have much to teach us about life in Christ. A goal of our Lenten journey is to grow stronger in and more committed to Christ. The examples of Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph have insights which can advance that Lenten goal of growing in holiness.
After having been enslaved by the Celts and having escaped that cruelty, Patrick returned to Ireland as an ordained cleric. On his second arrival he brought the Gospel and the Cross of Jesus Christ. As Patrick relates in his CONFESSIONS, during his years of enslavement he grew in his devotion to prayer and to God.
While training for the priesthood after escaping his masters, Patrick heard a voice – “Come, walk among us once more.” He responded to the voice and freely returned to a people not his own. With deepest respect for the cultures he found among the Celtic clans, Patrick preached first to the chieftains and their entourages and then to all. After winning them over to Christ, he set about establishing the church. Patrick did not impose strange rules or practices on the cultures he found. He wisely used the good that he found in the native cultures to bring the people to Christ and to set up the church.
In our time there is much talk in the Church about the New Evangelization. It means new ways for old teachings. It does not mean, as some have suggested, that old teachings are changed or disregarded. But it does mean that we need to change our approach so that the Gospel is heard and the church is implanted once again in communities where it has been ignored or forgotten. Patrick is a model of what the New Evangelization is asking from us.
Saint Joseph, the “just man” as the Scriptures label him, is an example of one who hears and who listens to God. Joseph is a man of silence. No words of his are found in the Scriptures but there are examples of his deeds, of his actions on behalf of others. Given the circumstances of life in Nazareth, Joseph had to have been an example to Jesus as a model of faith, devotion, work and responsibility.
Our observance of Lenten practices can strengthen us in our seeking holiness for our particular situations of life. Reflecting on the example of Saint Joseph can encourage us to want to be more like Christ for ourselves and for others. Lenten practices of penance and denial should lead us to charity on behalf of others. Our personal sacrifices remind us of our dependence on God. Isn’t this what encouraged Saint Joseph on each occasion when he had to self-sacrifice on behalf of Jesus and Mary?
Saint Patrick, for example, challenges us to make the Gospel known in new ways. There are many opportunities for our involvement offered through the parish. For some these may be programs or groups that are new to them. Don’t be shy; give it a try. You might be surprised that you are hearing the Good News as never before and growing in Christ.
Saint Joseph’s example of dependence on God graced him to do all that he had to do for Mary and for Jesus. That example teaches us to depend on God’s grace. It is an important lesson for Lent.
Saint Joseph and Saint Patrick pray for us.