ON ST. PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND
Consider first, how much we owe to God for having called this nation, by the ministry of St. Patrick, from darkness and the shadow of death that is, from infidelity, idolatry, and vice, into his admirable light; and from being the seat of the reign of Satan, where he for so many ages had exercised his tyranny without control, to become an island of Saints! O! what ought to be then the devotion of this day! how ought we to glorify God for this inestimable benefit of our vocation, and for all those other unspeakable gifts and graces which have been derived from this source! What veneration do we not owe to this our blessed Apostle, whom our Lord has chosen to be his instrument in this great work; who by his labours, by his preaching, and by his prayers, first brought Christ amongst us, and who first opened to us, through Christ, the fountains of mercy, grace, and salvation, which flow to this day! O! let us praise the Lord in his Saints.
Consider 2ndly, in what manner God prepared St. Patrick for this admirable work, and by what steps he brought him on from virtue to virtue, till he was perfectly qualified for the Apostleship. His Providence ordained that in his tender years he should be carried captive into that very land which he was afterwards to deliver from the slavery of Satan. Here he not only became acquainted with the language and manners of the people, but what was of infinitely more advantage to him, learned to spend his whole time, night and day, whilst he tended his master’s cattle, in the exercises of prayer and penance; by which he laid a solid foundation for an apostolic life. After he was released from his slavery, and received amongst the clergy, he employed many years abroad, under the discipline of the most eminent servants of God, in order to dispose and qualify himself to answer that divine call, by which he had been invited to the conversion of the Irish, which he then took in hand, when after this long preparation, he received both his episcopal consecration and mission from the Vicar of Jesus Christ, St. Celestine, Bishop of Rome. Thus the Spirit of God, by a long course of spiritual exercises, fitted our Saint for the great work for which he designed him; thus he gradually took full possession of that soul, by which he was to bring so many thousand souls to be his eternal temples. See, Christians, by what kind of exercises, of retirement, penance, and long-continued prayer, you ought also to be prepared, if you hope the Spirit of God should do great things by you or for you.
Consider 3rdly, the admirable ways and means by which St. Patrick was enabled to bring over a whole nation from their errors and vices to the faith and light of the Gospel, in spite of all the opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil. These were, principally, his ardent zeal for the glory of God, and the salvation of souls; his profound humility; his prayer which was most fervent and continual; and the Spirit with which he delivered the word of God. This word of God in his mouth was like a fire, which breaking forth from the great furnace of divine love which possessed his own breast, communicated its bright flames to the hearts of all that heard him, and won them over to Christ; his word was mighty to break in pieces even the hardest rocks, and to bring into captivity every understanding, and every will, to the obedience of Christ. See, ye ministers of God, by this example, by what kind of arms you are to bring souls to God; see by what kind of arms you are to overcome all opposition of the enemy, and effectually to establish the reign of Christ in those souls he has committed to our charge. True zeal, profound humility, a spirit of prayer, and a heart burning with ardent charity, will more effectually enable you to convert sinners, than if you were even to raise the dead to life. See, all ye Christians in general, in this great example of our Saint, what are the principal ingredients of true sanctity, and what are the virtues and exercises that will bring you also to be Saints. The zeal, or desire of pleasing God in all things, a sincere humility, fervent prayer, and true charity in both its branches, are necessary for all: these will surely make us Saints, and nothing less than these can secure the salvation of any one.
Conclude to offer up to God, on this day, a heart full of love and gratitude for the innumerable graces and blessings bestowed upon this island through the ministry of St. Patrick, and of that long train of Saints who have descended from him. Let us never degenerate from these our parents in Christ, or forget the glorious examples of their heroic virtues. O! who shall give us to see Ireland once more an island of Saints!