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Cant let St Patricks day go by without a mention of that great saint of Ireland

Here  is a little homily I put together though relied heavily on a web-site by a priest called Tommy Lane – so I claim little originality here:

Homily for St Patrick’s Day – March  17th 2010.

Today many people both in Ireland and beyond its shores will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day in merry style. So a few thoughts about this saint who lived c 400 years after the life of Jesus.

Most of us would think that it was St Patrick who first brought Christianity to Ireland.  But it was here already in south and east  of Ireland before his time  probably due to traders and contacts with the continent.

But Patrick is celebrated in a special way because of his outstanding efforts and achievement in converting much of the north and west of Ireland.

There is a legend about Patrick that he rid the country of snakes – but that is highly unlikely there were any snakes in Ireland at the time. But we do have some very trustworthy writings which tell us much about his life – indeed his own writings:

His Confessions in which we see his humility and his Letter to Coroticus in which we see the strong side of Patrick.

He is thought to have been born in Banwen in Wales and when he was c 16 years of age he was taken captive.

“I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people. We deserved this fate because we turned away from God; we neither kept his commandments nor obeyed our pastors who used to warn us about our salvation.” (Confessions §1)

While Patrick was working as a shepherd in Ireland he underwent a conversion experience. In his Confessions we read,

“The Lord there made me aware of my unbelief that I might at last advert to my sins and turn wholeheartedly to the Lord me.  He protected me and comforted me as a father would his son.”
(Confessions §1)

So when Patrick came to Ireland he became aware of the state of his soul, and converted, finding new life from God. He became a man of deep prayer.

“After I had come to Ireland I daily used to feed cattle, and I prayed frequently during the day; the love of God and the fear of Him increased more and more – so that in one day I said about a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same; so that I used even to remain in the woods and in the mountains; before daylight I used to rise to prayer, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm;  , because the spirit was then fervent within me.” (Confessions §6)

While here in captivity for six years he learned Irish which would be essential for his later mission  in Ireland.

He   went to France for training as a missionary but endured a set back when he was rejected for the appointment, due to a revelation by a priest friend of a misdeed of his 30 years previously . Patrick said he came close to giving up completely (Confessions §26). But he  saw good coming out of the evil, as he says in the Confessions,

“But this was for my good for thus was I purified by the Lord, and He made me fit that I might be now what was once far from me – that I should care and labor for the salvation of others.” (Confessions §12)

He was ordained a bishop  and commissioned for the mission in Ireland by the Pope  who gave him the name Patrick, which means ‘father’ (from the Latin word “pater”) since he was to be a father to the Irish. The year 432 AD is usually said to be the year when Patrick came to Ireland.

How was Patrick able to convert Ireland so successfully so easily?

Before Patrick came to Ireland there was a strong belief  in all kinds of gods, e.g. dating back to 3,500 BC the pre-Celtic peoples of Ireland worshipped the sun with shrines. In the ancient religion wells and rivers were associated with goddesses. Patrick tapped into these pagan beliefs and taught the people the true faith about the true God.

Spreading the word of God involved politics and diplomacy. Patrick used every means possible to spread the word of God. The shamrock was the sacred plant of the Druids and a legend (some say it is true) says Patrick used it to teach the Trinity. He baptized people in wells, and many holy wells in Ireland today are called after him.

We read in Patrick’s own writings that he would have loved to return to his parents and his companions in France but he made the sacrifice of not returning for the sake of spreading the faith in Ireland. At the very end of his Confessions he admits that he did nothing, it was God who did it all.

“But I want you to know and sincerely believe that anything I achieved was not through my effort, it was the gift of God and this is my confession before I die.” (Confessions §25)

He is said to have died on March 17th 493 and is buried in the same grave as St. Brigid and St. Columba in Downpatrick in County Down.

Patrick was obviously a great man of faith who used  every means possible to   pass on his faith and spread it?  He had many trials but didn’t become bitter  through them – but a better person.  So there is much a lot we can admire and learn from  this very holy man.

Collect for St Patrick.

Almighty God,

Who in your providence chose your servant Patrick

To be your apostle to the Irish people:

Keep alive in us the fire of the faith he kindled

And strengthen us in our pilgrimage

Towards the light of everlasting life:

Thrugh Jesus Christ your Son Our Lord.


The above is based on the writings of  Tommy Lane:


And Did you know??

Bubbles in Guinness ‘go down not up’ say scientists

Bubbles in Guinness really do go down instead of up, according to a study by scientists to mark St Patrick’s Day.

Published: 1:13PM GMT 16 Mar 2010

As pubs stocked up with extra supplies of the black stuff in preparation for Ireland’s national celebrations on Wednesday, scientists offered an explanation for why the famous Irish brew behaves so oddly.

Pour just about any other pint of beer, and the bubbles can be seen to obey the normal laws of physics. Filled with buoyant gas, they rise to the surface and form a frothy head.

But Guinness, in the best Irish tradition, does things differently. The bubbles in a freshly poured pint appear to be cascading down the side of the glass – yet the creamy top which is the drink’s trademark remains.

Members of the Royal Society of Chemistry set out to investigate the puzzle over the course of one lunchtime.

Scientists used a super-fast camera that could zoom in and magnify the bubbles 10 times.

The study showed that the more visible outlying bubbles in a pint of Guinness did move downwards, as a result of circulation flow and drag.

At the centre of the glass, the bubbles were free to rise rapidly, pulling the surrounding liquid with them and setting up a circulating current.

Flowing outwards from the surface, the frothy ”head”, the current hit the glass edge and was pushed down. Bubbles held back by dragging on the side of the glass were caught in the circulation and forced to go with the flow – the wrong way, for a bubble.

Dr Andrew Alexander, senior lecturer in chemical physics at the University of Edinburgh, who led the researchers, said: ”I’d wanted to try and capture the bubbles going down as I had obviously wondered whether it really did happen, having drunk a few Guinness during my time at university, or whether it was an optical illusion created by the waves in the drink that don’t contain any bubbles. Nobody had carried out the experiment before.

”To capture the image, we had a camera which uses 4,500 frames a second and a zoom lens of times 10. When we saw the bubbles really were going down, I was immeasurably happy.

”We then filmed it as a colleague pointed out that people might have said all we did was turn the photos upside down. But it’s true. The circulation cells in the glass provide the same effect like you see in a tornado.”

A spokesman for the RSC, based in Piccadilly, London, said: ”Guinness is good for this experiment as the bubbles are small, due to being released at high pressure by the widget and therefore easily pushed around.

”The gas in the bubbles is also important. In lager beers, the gas is carbon dioxide which is more easily dissolved into the liquid. The gas in Guinness bubbles is nitrogen – not so easily dissolved and therefore not prone to grow larger.

”Finally, the contrast between the dark liquid and the light cream bubbles make the bubbles much easier to see. We’re pleased to have finally solved this mystery in time for St Patrick’s Day when many people will no doubt be enjoying a pint or two.”

Telegraph online

March 16, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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