Saint Patrick’s Parade Day Mass – March 9, 2024

Once again, welcome one and all to this celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Parade Day in Scranton.  Welcome to our cathedral – your house – on this great day for Ireland, for our Diocese, for the City of Scranton and for Irish sons and daughters (and those who wish they were) here with us today and throughout our world.  What a blessed and wonderful way to begin what will undoubtedly be a memorable day in our beloved city.

As we begin, I’d like to recognize so many special guests who join us for Mass:  priests, deacons and religious sisters who serve our people so generously in the very faith that was proclaimed by the beloved Saint Patrick whom we honor this day – members of the parade committee and those being honored during today’s parade – representatives of Irish societies and organizations – and our civic leaders.  You honor us with your presence.

Join me now in welcoming from our sister-city of Ballina, in County Mayo, Ireland the Honorable Seamus Weir, Mayor of Ballina and Tom Gilligan, Director of Services.  Welcome to Scranton and to our Cathedral today.  It is a real privilege to have you participate in today’s festivities.

Finally, allow me a moment to single out one very special group of individuals without whose presence we would not be able to celebrate so freely and safely this day:  our devoted public servants, members of the military, police, firefighters, first responders and so many others who serve our community and our country so generously and selflessly.  Please join me in thanking these men and women and giving a shout out to our beloved brother – Scranton Police Detective Kyle Gilmartin.  God bless you, Kyle!  We love you.  You continue to be in our prayers. 

For all that we are about on this Parade Day – this feast of song, music, dance, reunion, stories, memories, friends and family – and maybe even a pint or two of Guinness, make no mistake that what we do at this moment as we gather to pray in this great Cathedral Church is where the greatest legacy of Saint Patrick is to be found.

And so, we come together as family and friends to celebrate the Eucharist and to give thanks to God for the gift of faith that God gave to Ireland – and to the world – through the blessing of Saint Patrick, through his trust in God’s providence and though his willingness to selflessly love and serve the people God entrusted to his care.         

Over 1500 years ago, we’re told by Patrick himself that he was taken as a slave to Ireland where he looked after animals until he escaped and returned to his family.  Years later, because of a love for God born of that adversity, Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary, compelled in his heart by God to share the Gospel message and the gift of faith that he’d been given. 

And look at what that message of faith – passed down to us through the ages – has done.  It has become the very source of our life – our hope – our love – and our peace as we journey through life.

Today’s gospel focuses our attention on the call of Simon – Peter.  Jesus encounters him following a day of very unsuccessful fishing.  As Peter and his colleagues are about ready to call it a day, Jesus challenges him to go out into the deep water and lower his nets one more time.  And the incredible catch of fish, clearly accomplished because of Jesus’ power and presence, is enough to provoke a life-changing response from Peter.  When they brought their boats to shore, Peter along with James and John left everything and followed Jesus. 

Like Peter, Patrick was also challenged to do and to be more than he could have ever imagined for the sake of the gospel and the salvation of souls.  …  And you and I, my friends, are challenged as well – challenged to open our hearts – to live the gospel message – to serve our brothers and sisters in need – to welcome new immigrants just as our ancestors were welcomed to this land – and to be the hands and heart and voice of God for a world that so desperately needs to experience God’s love and mercy. 

God depended upon Peter and Patrick to build his kingdom.  And God is counting on you and me to do the same.

Today our celebrations in this Cathedral, during the parade and beyond witness joyfully to the legacy of Saint Patrick – a legacy that more than anything else conveys to our world the strength, power and love of Christ.  This legacy, however, ought not to be celebrated but once a year.  Rather, God calls us to live it – today and every day – in our homes and neighborhoods, where we work and learn – and in every place where human hearts need to be touched by the goodness and mercy of God!