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Inquietum Est Cor Nostrum

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March 2017

The True Meaning of St. Patrick’s Day

It’s amazing to see that Saint Patrick’s feast day is celebrated internationally by many different cultures and peoples, but his popularity may not always be for the right reasons—many that participate celebrate not for Saint Patrick’s sake, but for the sake of partying and celebrating in itself. This tendency to lose sight of the reason behind the celebration dominates many American’s perceptions of the feast day of Saint Patrick, and drowns out the great history, faith, and victory that his feast day celebrates. Saint Patrick’s life offers an amazing story of how God can be a major source of relief in our lives, how He works in mysterious ways, and how He guides us to where we need to be if we allow Him; by keeping these things in mind, we can celebrate in a way that can be fulfilling.

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Photo by: Andreas Franz Borchert

Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a Catholic family, but according to his memoir, he “knew not the true God” until he was captured and placed into bondage. As a teenager, Patrick was taken to Ireland by pirates, and was forced to work as a slave by tending to farm animals. In this suffering, and in his lonesome despair, Patrick learned to see and rely on God’s love—in his memoir, The Confession of Saint Patrick, he explains how his reliance on God for hope and solace offered incredible fruit: “The love of God and His fear grew and grew in me more and more, as did faith… I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.” Eventually, after years of enslavement, Patrick had grown much in his faith, and God came to Patrick in a dream instructing him to escape and return home.

Once at home, an angel appeared to Patrick in a dream, compelling him to return to Ireland and share his faith. Trusting God’s plan, he studied to join the priesthood, and was eventually ordained a bishop before being sent to Ireland to spread the Gospel. He dedicated forty years of his life to the Church, and suffering and enduring much as he converted people, built churches, and worked miracles across Ireland. His perseverance against adversity contributed greatly to the development and prosperity of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and ­offers an inspiring example of dedication to spreading His word.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ireland: Photo by Kayla Thurber

Although he lived in the 4th and 5th centuries, the struggles and actions of Saint Patrick can still be admired and related to our lives as Catholics today. In a lonely, unfamiliar land, Saint Patrick turned to God, and was provided with shelter from pain and distress. Likewise, when our lives move in unexpected directions, giving us reasons to despair or panic, we must try to remember that our lives and fears can be trusted to God, and that He will console us. One can imagine that Patrick was overwhelmed when he was brought to Ireland, but God used this as a part of His plan: He drew Patrick closer to Him, and then used him to reach out to and bring many to the light of His love. Saint Patrick’s life, although marked by difficulty and suffering, is surely one to be celebrated as noble and holy.

Saint Patrick’s Day offers us a time to reflect upon the life of a great man, how the Lord works in our lives, and how we can give ourselves to the Lord for His noble purposes. So celebrate: the Bishop granted a dispensation from fasting from meat this Friday* for this life lived so gloriously and graciously, so a special meal for this occasion can offer a reminder of how a life lived with Him in mind can be truly satisfying.

 

Written by: Alex Esperanza, Restless Heart Communications

Featured photo by: Quentin Rey

*You can only eat meat this Friday if you abstain from meat the following day, Saturday, March 18.  This is the official decision of Bishop Estevez for the diocese of St. Augustine.

 

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How I Found Our Lady in Sicily

Every few years since the age of six, I’ve gone to Italy to see my family. My mother’s side lives on that small rock, kicked by the Italian boot, we call Sicily. There, between the ages of six and 19, I visited my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins and cousins and cousins and cousins. This summer, I did just the same, but I was blessed enough to also experience a beautiful part of Catholic life I as an American don’t often encounter: feast day parades.

Two days into my trip, I was trucked up to a church on a peak and told the procession was about to begin. Inside, it was loud and crowded. People weave in and out of the church, barefoot and hot, under the presence of a statue of Mary, dressed in gold and jewelry. Old Italian matrons, parked in their chairs, observed the crowd while fanning themselves in big sweeps, and chatting about how “mom” is visiting us once again.

church-front877Every year on July 2 the Sicilian city of Enna in Italy celebrates the Feast of the Visitation in special way. The men of the city shoulder a statue of the Virgin Mary known as La Madonna S.S. della Visitazione, or Our Lady of the Visitation, and carry her to a church on the other side of the city. Where she visits her cousin Elizabeth, also a statue of great beauty, in celebration of the good news. As they have done so since the 14th Century after the pagan cult of Ceres was replaced with this holiday honoring Mary.

Reveling in the fun and cool air from the altitude breaking the Sicilian heat, I could only think it was Mary that could make such an old holiday new every year with youthful joy for the people of this city and its surroundings.

My experience in the celebration began in the mother church where the men stretched their shoulders and toes to prepare for the burden that was to come and while visitors began to pile to take a close picture of Our Lady before she began her journey, like I did.

The statue, covered in pounds of jewelry given as thanks for graces by devotees, is the reason the men prepare for sore shoulders and aching feet. It’s heavy beyond belief and must be carried through treacherously sloped, cobbled and narrow streets. A picturesque, but often difficult feature of Italy.

At points the men must lower the statue almost to the ground so as to pass through certain streets, and this they do barefoot, too. For these men, the bare-footedness and the burden of the journey is all to honor Our Lady and give thanks to the Lord. They carry her, with every gold necklace adorned on her and prayer attached to her, because she carries us.

It is a sacrifice these sons of Enna take willingly every year. Even in 1943, when bombs were being dropped on Italy, this procession continued. Mary was certainly there that day protecting the townspeople as they scrambled to find the men to carry her to her visiting church before sundown.

Women, too, walked barefoot alongside their sons and brothers, to offer a small sacrifice or simply as an act of thanks.

The parade offered immeasurable joy in the crowds of spirited older women with rosaries in hand and children weaving through streets, trying to catch the next glimpse of the procession.

I felt that joy like a sigh of relief. Mary is often the Untier of Knots or the Merciful. She who knows suffering at its greatest. She who is many people’s first point of empathy. I go to her like I do to my mother, often for comfort.

On this occasion, I found Mary in a way I had not been acquainted well with. In the streets of Enna, I found Mary as the vehicle of joy incarnate. A blessing of hope in the high altitude of the tallest city on the island. She is a beacon and an example.

In a place like Sicily, this joy is welcome. The people of Enna, like all of us, look to Mary forstatue-procession875 strength and constancy, in a place where its often difficult to find either. Sicily is much loved by words and little by deeds. It’s during these festivals, honoring those who draw us closer to God, that these small Sicilian towns and cities, often languishing at the lack of employment and prosperity, have purpose once again.

And individually, I have purpose, too. Watching the men carry Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. Michael, I asked myself (and still do) how I glorify God. I may thank Him and pray to Him in the silence of my heart, but do I share His joy with others?

The Feast of the Visitation in Enna is my reminder of joy when I struggle to sing in Mass or reconsider saying an uncharitable word. The deepest parts of my faith will perhaps always flourish in private, but Mary, coming to show the world the greatest joy we can ever know, reminds me that it doesn’t hurt once and a while to let that fruit of that faith show.

 

Written by: Dolores Hinckley, Restless Heart Communications

Photos by: Dolores Hinckley, Restless Heart Communications

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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