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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saint Patrick - immigrant, migrant and slave

"America has Abraham Lincoln, Britain has Winston Churchill, and South Africa has Nelson Mandela. These men are honored for what they overcame and accomplished with their political power, but St. Patrick, because of what he accomplished in the conversion of a population, did so without any power."-from Consider the Gospel.org **
When right wingers stigmatize refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and immigrants as people who inordinately consume our attention and resources, think about the life of St. Patrick. Think about what he accomplished, as one man, who carried the unwarranted stigmas attributed to the desperate refugees we must help in today's world.
Image result for Saint Patrick picture
There was a time when the Irish were the desperate refugees who fled by tens of thousands to escape starvation cause by the devastating great potato famine. In spite of their desperation, the Irish eventually become political "influencers" in the Northeast.

In Celtic Ireland, Saint Patrick himself rose to the highest levels of Roman Catholic leadership. Even during in his lifetime, he was recognized for his leadership, all while overcoming the stigma of being a migrant, an immigrant and slave.

Even Donald Trump's own mother Mary Anne McCue Trump was a Scottish immigrant and her son was elected US president.

Ireland's church leaders call us to remember the root of their nation's conversion to Christianity. In fact, the transcending leadership figure was in the person of St. Patrick, who was a migrant, an immigrant and a slave.

Irish archbishop: St. Patrick was an ‘undocumented migrant’-The Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin (Credit: Archdiocese of Armagh)

St. Patrick called himself an 'unlearned refugee'. Archbishop Armagh, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland called the faithful to remember that St. Patrick was first brought to Ireland as a slave, by traffickers, and that many today find themselves displaced and without status in our world.


ARMAGH, Northern Ireland - The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland urged the Irish people and those of Irish descent, especially while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, to remember the plight of migrants.

Archbishop Eamon Martin - St. Patrick’s modern-day successor as Archbishop of Armagh - used his message for the March 17th feast of St. Patrick, to recall how the church leader and saint was first brought to Ireland as a slave, by traffickers.

The archbishop said that “as Irish people, we cannot think of Patrick without acknowledging the enormous humanitarian and pastoral challenges facing growing numbers of people who find themselves displaced and without status in our world.

“This is so shockingly exemplified by the refugee crisis here in Europe,” he said.

“Prompted by the situation of thousands of displaced people around the world, let us think about Patrick the ‘unlearned refugee’ (as he once described himself), the slave in exile, Patrick the undocumented migrant,” Martin said.

Referring to, among others, the estimated 50,000 Irish people living illegally in the United States, the archbishop - who is also president of the Irish bishops’ conference - pointed out that “many of our compatriots remain undocumented in various countries around the world and, in some cases, feel vulnerable and treated with suspicion.”

The archbishop pointed out that “St. Patrick’s experience of isolation and captivity as a teenager transformed and shaped his whole life and his relationship with God. His lonely time as a slave on the hills of Ireland became a transforming experience, where he felt embraced by the fatherly love of God.

“I invite you to pray for refugees and for all displaced families at this time and, wherever you are, to encourage the hospitality and welcome for which we Irish are famous the world over,” Martin said.

Meanwhile, to mark the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, Catholic and Protestant cathedrals in Armagh were to be illuminated in green. Tradition holds that St. Patrick founded the ancient see of Armagh.

Anglican Archbishop Richard Clarke will lead those gathered in prayer at St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland (Anglican) Cathedral, then guide the group via torchlight to St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, where they will be welcomed by Martin.

Organizers said this symbolic expression of the unity of the churches reflects St. Patrick’s own journey of uniting the Irish people with Christianity.

**Patrick was born in Britain when the Roman Legions had left the British Isles in the early 400’s CE. Britain was a lawless place then full of anarchy, looting and kidnapping. In His Confession (one of two of his extant writings) he states that when he was ‘sixteen’ (Confessions 1) or “almost a beardless boy” (Confessions 10) he was captured by Irish slave-traders, taken to Ireland, sold as a slave where he tended his master’s herds (probably pigs) for seven years. Back home his grandfather had been a priest and his father a deacon so he had been raised in a relatively well-off household. However he had never accepted true faith. He describes himself in his youth as a “sinner”, who along with his hometown friends “did not keep His (God’s) precepts, nor were we obedient” (Confessions 1). However, during his lonely years in a barbaric place, amidst a foreign language, strange customs and deprived opportunities, the teachings sown into his heart in childhood sprang to life. He describes his herder life as one “…out in the forests and on the mountain … in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain…” (Confessions 16)  (Maine Writer- in today's world, everyday is St. Patrick's Day when we are summoned to support the world's desperate immigrants, migrants, asylum seekers and trafficking victims.)

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