The Feast of St. Patrick, by Prasanta Verma

Today, March 17, is the Feast Day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. When I was growing up, and even as an adult, although I knew of the holiday, I hadn’t thought much about its origins. My only understanding was the holiday was Irish and celebrated a saint I knew nothing about. When my children were very young, one year in our history studies the curriculum suggested the idea of reading about this holiday and the life of St. Patrick. I went to the library and checked out a few books and read them to my children, amazed at the story, a story I had known nothing about. I didn’t grow up in a liturgical tradition, where perhaps these stories are more widely shared and well known.

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain (which is now England, Scotland, or Wales) in the 5th century. When he was sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland to work as a slave. After six years, he escaped, but then returned. Some say his return was because he had a dream that the Irish asked him to come back to their country, and he saw the dream as a message from God. St. Patrick returned to Ireland and converted many Irish to Christianity. He died on March 17, 461, and by then had set up monasteries, churches, and schools. Legends surround him, such as he drove snakes out of Ireland and used a shamrock to explain the Trinity (which explains the use of the shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day).

The Irish have observed the Feast of St. Patrick since the 9th or 10th century. Falling during Lent, Irish families would attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Prohibitions during Lent were set aside for the day, allowing people to eat meat, dance, and feast.

Records show a St Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601, in a Spanish colony in what is now St Augustine, FL. A hundred years later, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in New York City on March 17, 1772 to honor St. Patrick. Enthusiasm grew and other cities joined in celebrating, too.

Today, cities hold St. Patrick’s day parades all over America, with cities such as New York and Boston hosting large celebrations. The New York City St. Patrick’s Day is the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world, attracting over 2 million people, and the parade is older than the country of the U.S. itself.

Chicago began dyeing the Chicago River green since 1962 in honor of the day. Originally, city officials released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye in the river, keeping it green for a week. Today, they use only 40 pounds of dye, turning the river green for only a few hours. People all around the world celebrate the St. Patrick Feast Day, including Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Russia.

In Ireland, St Patrick’s day had been viewed mostly as a religious observance, and up until the 1960s, they had laws that forbid bars from being open that day. In 1903, St. Patrick’s day switched from being a holy day for Catholics to an official Irish public holiday. Pubs were closed for the day until the 1970s. Ireland embraced the celebratory side of St. Patrick’s Feast in the 90’s to bring tourist revenue in the country.

Now, the celebration is largely a cultural and secular event and celebration of Irish culture.

People eat foods include corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and champ (an Irish dish made of creamy mashed potatoes and scallions). In 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion, the color green became associated with St Patrick’s Day. In the U.S., people wear green, but interestingly, the original color associated with St Patrick was blue. St Patrick’s Day is always on March 17.

St. Patrick’s real name is Maewyn Succat. Patrick means “Patricius” or “Patrick” from the Latin word for “father figure.” It is interesting how far our knowledge of the origins of our holidays has veered from their actual beginnings. Now, when I celebrate, as I make Irish soda bread on this day, I recall the story of a young man who did the unthinkable, going back to his captors, following a call to share good news with those who had enslaved him.

Below is a prayer attributed to St. Patrick.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Sources:
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Saint-Patricks-Day

https://www.insider.com/the-history-behind-st-patricks-day-2020-2#the-first-new-york-city-parade-in-honor-of-st-patricks-day-took-place-in-1762-5

https://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/history-of-st-patricks-day

https://www.beliefnet.com/prayers/catholic/morning/the-prayer-of-st-patrick.aspx

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Prasanta Verma, a poet, writer, and artist, is a member of The Contemplative Writer team. Born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills, Prasanta currently lives in the Midwest, is a mom of three, and also coaches high school debate. You can find her on Twitter @VermaPrasanta, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

WEEKLY PRAYER: CESAR CHAVEZ

This week we’re praying with Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), a Mexican American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist. The prayer below reflects his belief in the dignity of all people and the need to come together in prayer, justice, and community. Cesar Chavez Day is coming up on March 31.

Chavez’s prayer is a good one for the season of Lent, when we reflect on where we are going in our spiritual lives and how we might be more present to the suffering and needs of those around us.

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Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.

Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.

Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.

Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.

Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.

Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.

Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.

Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.

Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.

Amen.

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope the posts collected here will enrich your Lenten journey and inspire you in your writing/creative life!

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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The Power of the Cross via Classically Christian (a meditation on 1 Cor. 1:18-19 and some wonderful quotes from women mystics on the cross of Christ)

Juan de Yepes via Roger Butts (a short poem about St. John of the Cross, when he was released from jail)

I want to talk to Thomas Merton about race via Sophfronia Scott (“I don’t want to be a rigid flame of indignation. I don’t want my life weighed down by anger, hopelessness, and resentment.”)

Intention can turn any lockdown walk into pilgrimage, urges British Pilgrimage Trust via Emily McFarlan Miller (ideas for taking a micro-pilgrimage or a spiritual pilgrimage during lockdown)

A Tale of a Fox and a Novel: On Taking the Leap and Submitting Your Writing via Nicole Bianchi (“Resistance loves it when we hesitate, when we over-prepare. The answer: plunge in.”)

Blogging Versus Email Newsletters: Which Is Better for Writers? via Jane Friedman (the pros and cons of each approach and how to figure out which might be better for you)


Late Bloomer

I’ve always been a late bloomer.

I was late to have children (15 years after getting married).

Late to understand I was on the wrong career path.

Late to publish my first book (well after age 40).

Late to publish my second book (6 years after the first one).

Late to understand key things about myself that are necessary for me to function and thrive.

Late to have heart knowledge (not just head knowledge) of God’s love and healing power.

With Saint Augustine, I cry out, “Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!”

It’s a source of grief that knowledge of self and knowledge of God (insofar as this is possible) have come to me so late. I wish I were ten or even twenty years younger so that I’d have more time to live with these insights. More time to right wrongs. More time to live better. Wiser. Freer.

***

The Bible is full of late bloomers: Sarah and Abraham, Enoch, “Doubting” Thomas . . . all of these figures took a longer than average time (compared to others) to grow into what God had in store for them.

For me, the ultimate late bloomer is the thief crucified with Jesus, the one who addressed Jesus on the cross, saying, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). It’s usually assumed that this thief had a conversion, believing in Jesus just moments before his death. By tradition, he’s often referred to as the “good thief.”

The Crucifixion, Flemish, ca. 1525, Metropolitan Museum of Art

When we lived in Belgium, my husband and I attended an international church. One of our friends, a young woman from Uganda, wanted to get baptized but couldn’t (just yet) because of possible reprisal from her father, who did not want her to embrace the Christian faith. Her father was powerful, and our church counseled her to wait. Despite our reassurances, she could not be consoled. “Scripture says to ‘repent and be baptized,’” she kept saying. “I have to get baptized.”

Finally, during one of our conversations, I happened to mention the “good thief” and what his story means. Without benefit of baptism—or any action at all—this man pleased Jesus. Within the span of one day, he came to belief and received the promise of Paradise. This story seemed to give our friend a bit of peace.

***

Can I find some peace in it, too?

The good thief saw the truth at the last possible moment. Or perhaps he saw it at exactly the right moment. Of Jesus and the two criminals, theologian Karl Barth said, “Don’t be too surprised if I tell you that this was the first Christian fellowship, the first certain, indissoluble and indestructible Christian community” (Deliverance to the Captives). And now this thief, this late bloomer, ministers to us, telling us what it means to be a Christian. Maybe even telling us more clearly than any of Jesus’ disciples or long-time companions.

In the end, I suppose there are worse people to resemble than the good thief – someone whose timeline Jesus honored, someone who grasped the truth when it was most needful for him to do so. Imagining myself in his company, I think on my life and conclude, maybe I’m late – or maybe I’m right on time.


Lenten Prayer: St. Ephrem the Syrian

This week’s prayer comes from St. Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306 – 373), an Eastern Christian theologian and Doctor of the Church.

***

O Lord and Master of my life!

Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother,
for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! In this 3rd week of Lent, we hope the following posts will be a blessing and an encouragement to you on your journey.

Love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Lent, Week 3: An Image & A Liturgy via The Rabbit Room (a weekly series exploring themes of suffering and loss through music, story, and art)

History as a Lenten Discipline via Chris Gehrz (each moment in history is one more fiber of wood composing the Cross)

The Wondrous Mystery via Bruce Lawrie (the beauty whispering to me from wild places had been Jesus all along)

Charles Spurgeon Knew It Was Possible to Be Faithful and Depressed via Diana Gruver (his example can encourage believers who “walk in darkness”)

Ten Church Fathers to Start Off With via Ed Creedy (expand your reading — an introduction to writers of the Early Church)

Writing Advice I Took to Heart via Lori Hatcher (encouragement for writers everywhere)


Water of Life, Water of Change

This week, I wanted to share with you an essay I wrote that was published in Plough Magazine on Monday. I wrote the essay to express the frustration I/we often feel in this time of Covid and the inbetweenness that marks our life during the pandemic, during Lent . . . and during our time on earth. I hope you enjoy it!

***

Last fall, during one of the many pandemic surges in our area, my two daughters and I took a day trip to Grandfather Mountain State Park. We came across a small river, whose name I no longer recall. My city girls will use any excuse to stop hiking, so I let them pause at the water’s edge and remember what it’s like to play, free and unencumbered. It would have been better to keep walking though; I’d forgotten that standing still gives me too much time to think. Watching my girls on the riverbank, tossing stones and exploring the ecosystem, I ached for them. I ached for the season they are living through, the upheaval and the fear and the isolation. As my daughters played and I mused, the river flowed on, like a timeline I wished I could travel to a better place.

If I followed the river many eons back, perhaps I would encounter the earth’s mother river, the one that fed the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10). There wouldn’t be any aching along those banks, surely . . .

Please continue reading this essay over at Plough!


Weekly Prayer: St. Augustine

On more than one occasion, Augustine spoke of the soul as a house — a place where God dwells, a place that is under construction for most of our life. I’ve always loved the beautiful prayer below, from the Confessions, and find it a good one for the season of Lent.

***

The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, “Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord, and for those encurred through others, pardon your servant“? I believe, and so I will speak. You know everything, Lord. Have I not laid my own transgressions bare before you to my own condemnation, my God, and have not you forgiven the wickedness of my heart? I do not argue my case against you, for you are truth itself; nor do I wish to deceive myself, lest my iniquity be caught in its own lies. No, I do not argue the case with you, because if you, Lord, keep score of our iniquities, then who, Lord, can bear it?

Confessions Book I:6



WEEKLY PRAYER: DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

This very moving and honest prayer comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and papers from prison. We might use it to cry out to God during Lent or other times when we come to the end of ourselves and cannot see the way forward.

***

God, I call to you early in the morning,
help me pray and collect my thoughts,
I cannot do so alone.

In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but you do not abandon me.
I am faint-hearted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know the right way for me.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week, we’ve rounded up some wonderful posts on the season of Lent and prayer in the night. We hope they’ll enrich your journey this week.

Love and blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Lent, Day 3 via Art & Theology (an artistic and theological meditation for each day of Lent)

Why Christina Rossetti’s “A Better Resurrection” Is Lenten Food For 2021 via Holly Ordway (facing up to, rather than fearing, our weakness)

Ash Wednesday: Guided by St. Clare of Assisi via Shemaiah Gonzalez (how St. Clare can guide us through the season of Lent)

Night Vigil for Insomniacs via Matt Kappadakunnel (an ancient Christian practice and an aid during sleeplessness)

Give Rest to the Weary via Tish Harrison Warren (the prayer for those who are too tired to pray)

The Rabbi Sings the COVID “Blues” via Jeffrey Salkin (“There is a great cloud of unknowing. Sometimes, you just have to embrace it”)