THANK GOD FOR THE STRANGER – Reflection for March
All over the world, wherever the Irish are found, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated. But not everyone who celebrates knows what it’s all really about. The legends can hide the reality. In fact St. Patrick is a great model for us all today. He was forced to come to Ireland, being abducted at the age of sixteen, to become a slave, minding pigs on a cold Antrim mountainside. But during those six years of hardship he discovered how God was looking after him, and developed a life of intense prayer. Then he escaped, and returned to the comfort and security of his family. But the suffering, loneliness and exile which he experienced changed his life and prepared him for an undreamed-of future later on. He describes how this came about in his famous “Confession”
… there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: ‘The Voice of the Irish’; and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’ And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry. Confession. Par. 23.
As we look around at all those who have come to our shores, is there a hidden St. Patrick there? Someone from a far-off land whose suffering and hardship has given them a wisdom and experience, a special gift or grace to offer us, in this time of recession, anxiety and hardship in Ireland. Thank God for the stranger, Patrick, who was generous enough to return to a land where he had initially been so mistreated!