Saint Patrick’s Parade Day Mass – September 18, 2021
1 Peter 4:7b-11, Luke 5:1-11

Welcome!  Welcome to our cathedral as we join together for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and begin a long overdue commemoration of Saint Patrick’s Day and all things Irish – half way to March 17th!

I’d like to recognize and welcome my brother priests and deacons, religious sisters, members of the parade committee and those being honored during today’s parade, representatives of Irish societies and organizations, our civic leaders and so many others. On your behalf, I would particularly like to acknowledge and thank our devoted public servants, members of the military, policemen, firemen, first responders and so many others who serve our community and our country so generously and selflessly – and who have especially done so during the difficult times that we have confronted since last we gathered to celebrate this Parade Day Mass in March 2019.  Thank you for taking the time to begin this great parade day with prayer – precisely the way in which Saint Patrick would expect us to begin.

This great day has been a long time coming, hasn’t it?  And in so many respects, the message of the saint whom we honor today couldn’t be more timely and meaningful to our lives…We’ve weathered some very tough times – and we’re only beginning to realize that the challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic will likely continue to be with us for quite some time.  …  We’ve faced uncertainty and fear, loneliness and pain, and for some of us sickness and the grief that comes from loss – all because of a once-in-a-century pandemic, the likes of which we could have never imagined a year and a half ago.

But I’d suggest that we’ve also come to understand something else that Saint Patrick learned centuries ago when he walked the green hills and valleys of Ireland.  For all that we are capable of controlling and determining through our expertise, our ingenuity and our determination, none of us can ultimately control life and death.  That is left to a power bigger than ourselves – a power we know as God.  And that reality, brothers and sisters, is why we begin this day of celebration and gratitude gather in prayer.

Perhaps some of you recall a particularly poignant time of prayer that took place in Saint Peter’s Square just a few weeks before Holy Week in 2020 in the earliest days of the pandemic.  Pope Francis walked into a dark, empty, rain-slicked Saint Peter’s Square to pray and to offer an extraordinary blessing for a suffering world.  And he reflected on a gospel passage from Saint Mark in which the disciples were caught in a terrible storm as they navigated their boat through the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  They feared for their very lives.  They thought they were going to drown.  And where was Jesus?  Asleep in the boat in the midst of the storm.

The Holy Father likened us to the disciples in the gospel.  Just like the disciples found it difficult to understand how and why Jesus could lay fast asleep in the midst of such a perilous moment in their lives, I suspect that we have all wondered the same thing not just during the course of the coronavirus pandemic, but also during some of the more challenging moments that we’ve all experienced throughout our lives.

Do you recall Jesus’ response to the disciples – and us:  “Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?”  …  Pope Francis reflects upon the heart of Jesus’s response.  “Faith,” he states, “begins when we realize we are in need of salvation.”  …  Faith begins when we are humble enough to acknowledge that by ourselves, we are not self-sufficient…Faith begins when, as Pope Francis reflected, we “choose what matters and what passes away, separating what is necessary from what is not.”

That, brothers and sisters, is what we celebrate today:  faith!   For all of the challenges of life and the struggles that we face in our families, neighborhoods, our Church and our world – especially in the midst of a global health crisis – this day taps the roots of faith that were planted in the hearts of the people of Ireland and celebrates our shared belief that God is with us, carrying us through life – not a life free from pain nor a life unfamiliar with storms and upheaval – but a life that ultimately brings us to peace.

In one of my favorite passages from Saint Patrick’s writings, he describes himself as being like a stone, lying in the mud, which God lifted up and placed at the very top of the wall. It was his understanding and acceptance of God’s mercy in his life that allowed Saint Patrick to make the choice to face every storm and every challenge in order to introduce those entrusted to his care to the love of God.

May we come to experience that love a bit more deeply this day. May that same love sustain us amid these times that continue to challenge us and disrupt our peace. May it remind us, especially during these times, of our responsibility to care for one another. And “may the great Saint Patrick guard you wherever you go – guide you in whatever you do – and may his loving protection be a blessing to you Always.” Amen!