Mass for School Children (Feast of St Patrick)
MASS FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN ON THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON THURSDAY, 14 MARCH, 2013, AT 10.30 A.M.
My dear young Friends,
We all remember birthdays; special moments in our life. We look forward to them and look back upon them and they give life meaning. Also, we remember those people who are special to us; the things they showed us, how kind they were to us, how they made us feel special.
Today we remember a young boy born in Britain over sixteen hundred years ago and Irish people and the people of Melbourne have remembered him throughout our history. Just like you and I look forward to a birthday or a great event and look back on it afterwards, we can look back to Saint Patrick as someone who really had his life together.
As a young boy Patrick loved God and his family, but he did not always take notice of how important God is in our lives. At sixteen he was taken as a slave and forced to mind sheep for six years on a mountain. There was little food and not much to do, but he turned to praying to God, day and night.
Then at twenty-two he heard a voice in his sleep asking him to be ready for something special, which would bring him back to home and family. He ran away, travelling two hundred miles on foot, because he believed there would be a ship to take him home and there was.
After three days at sea they came to land and journeyed for a month. Because of his prayer and thinking when looking after the sheep those who were with him knew he was close to God. However, they were very hungry they mocked him and Patrick said, ‘Turn with all your heart to God. With him everything is possible.’ So at twenty-three he did the impossible and came back to his people. Later he studied in France, taught people to love God and became a great leader and teacher.
Jesus Christ was important to Patrick because he knew that God saves us from our sins. He even wrote, ‘I believe in God forever; to Jesus in his birth, when he was baptised in the Jordan and went to the cross to save us, he rose from the tomb went to heaven and will come to save us.’ These words are part of a great hymn, which speaks of how Patrick loved God. It made him a good shepherd, a determined searcher after truth, a person who said to people by his life, ‘God is near. Do not be afraid.’ It is this great friend of God who became the Archbishop of Armagh in Northern Ireland and his love was infectious.
In Melbourne we have chosen Saint Patrick as our patron because Jesus meant everything to him. It is the only way we will be happy. Saint Patrick wrote, ‘Christ is all-important. It is really Jesus who teaches us.’ Patrick knew that he had been chosen by God and sent to bring the Irish people back to God.
Listen carefully to this great friend of God. What is God asking me? We can even have in our mind the little prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. You have the words of life forever.’ Patrick was attractive. People flocked to follow him because he showed Jesus to people.
The great challenge for you and for me – (I) is to be close to Jesus and faithful to prayer every day of our life, (ii) to ask Jesus to show us what we can do for him and for people. Maybe a boy will hear Jesus saying, ‘Come follow Me’ and be a priest. A girl will see her teachers or those who look after people and will say ‘yes’ to helping others to know Jesus. Whoever we are, Jesus has a special plan for us. Saint Patrick shows us that the only way to be truly happy is to follow Jesus. Patrick knew he had shortcomings and weaknesses and yet he gave himself to God - and let God do the rest.
I pray for you in this Mass that you will let God do what he can in you. But we have first to say ‘yes’. Jesus reminds us at the end of the Gospel, ‘Don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ That is the promise Jesus makes to those who love him and who give themselves for others. What about you and me?
+ Denis J. Hart
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.