Saint Patrick’s Parade Day Mass – March 11, 2023
1 Peter 4:7b-11, Luke 5:1-11 

I have to be frank with you folks.  Not a few of us breathed a sigh of relief this morning as we dodged another proverbial bullet and snowstorm at the beginning of Parade Day here in Scranton. 

Think about it.  For decades, this day always occurred in the earlier part of March in anticipation of the Feast of Saint Patrick on the 17th – until 2020 when there was no parade due to the pandemic.  …  2021 saw us crawling out of a difficult year and conducting this cherished event in September.  But let’s be honest, September isn’t March.  …  Finally, if you recall, when all seemed right to once again reclaim these early days of March to honor Saint Patrick, a nor’easter rolled up the coast and Parade Day 2022 was celebrated on March 19th of all days – the Feast Day of Saint Joseph!  …  My theory – the Scranton Parade woes made it all the way to the halls of heaven.  Neither Saint Joseph nor Saint Patrick were willing to share center stage again.  …  So here we are, just where we belong!

Welcome to our cathedral!  I am so pleased to be a part of this gathering today with all of you who have taken the time to begin this Parade Day in Scranton in prayer, just as Saint Patrick would have wanted. 

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.  …  And on your behalf, I would particularly like to acknowledge and thank our health care workers and devoted public servants, members of the military, police officers, fire fighters, first responders and so many who serve our community and our country so generously and selflessly.  Thank you for all that you do for us!

Now, for just a few moments, reflect with me on what we do during this hour.  Simply put, we’re gathered here in this beautiful cathedral to give thanks for the gift God gave to Ireland through the life of Saint Patrick.         

Some might wonder why we acknowledge the gift that Patrick was to the people of Ireland.  Why?  Let’s start with a simple statement about what Saint Patrick did.  He loved the people of Ireland.  He loved them more than life itself and devoted his whole life to sharing with the people of Ireland the best thing he had – the good news that God loved them. 

Patrick taught the people of Ireland about their place in the world, about right and wrong and how to accept from God the strength to do the one and avoid the other.  He helped them to understand the dignity of every human being and the value of every life.  And he shared with them through the example of his life and ministry the truth and blessing of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and how that reality has the power to bring meaning and purpose to their lives – and ours.

By his work, Saint Patrick fathered a people and a culture.  From a little green island on the edge of the Atlantic, the message of God’s mercy and love was generously shared.  Countless numbers of lives have been touched.  Our nation has been blessed.  And we are all richer in our faith because of the God’s gift of Saint Patrick to our Church and to our world.

That, brothers and sisters, is what we celebrate today.  For all of the challenges of life and the struggles that we face in our families, neighborhoods, our Church and our world, this day taps the roots of our faith 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 that allowed Saint Patrick 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 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!