St. Pat’s celebration is ‘family tradition’

SOUTH END — The Feast Day of St. Patrick was celebrated in the Archdiocese of Boston with the conclusion of a novena for vocations and a Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston March 17.

Father John Connolly, rector at the cathedral, gave the homily, emphasizing the pertinence of St. Patrick in today’s world to all of his “spiritual and cultural descendents.”

“We who come from so many places, not merely from Irish descent, love him and seek to emulate him because he helps us remember who God calls each one of us to be,” he said.

“Patrick remains a saint for you and me today because he helps us remember who we are and especially who we are in relationship to God.”

“Amidst complicated and complex lives of the 21st century, which all of us lead, amidst trials and tribulations, demands on our time and attention, all those things that tug at us, pull at us, might stop us from doing what we ought, he reminds us that it’s just that simple and it’s just that easy. God loves us. God sent Christ, His son, to show us how to live and how to love,” he added.

St. Patrick spent his first years in Ireland as a slave who labored in difficult conditions, but came to know and love God despite the harsh treatment he received. He became rooted in his faith and served God humbly. He understood that he was a sinner and recognized that God worked through him.

“During his years of servitude, God prepared him for the mission that would be his, the apostle of the people of Ireland,” he said.

When St. Patrick was assigned as a bishop to Ireland, his predecessor had been run out of Ireland by clansmen.

“Patrick took up the mission. Patrick went where others had failed,” Father Connolly said.

All Catholics should take courage in St. Patrick’s example. He succeeded because he understood that what he was able to accomplish he did with the grace and power of God.

After speaking about St. Patrick, Father Connolly encouraged Cardinal-designate Seán P. O’Malley and congratulated him on his elevation. Cardinal-designate O’Malley left for Rome the following day to attend the March 24 consistory.

“St. Patrick was, in the early days in Ireland, a slave. You have been with us nearly three years as archbishop of Boston and things beyond your control have seemed to hold you sometimes in slavery,” he said.

Father Connolly then promised to send prayers, support and affection for the cardinal-designate, and prayed that the cardinal-designate would have the hope and strength to lead the people of Boston like St. Patrick led the people of Ireland.

After the homily, potted shamrocks for those present to take home were blessed. The Mass also included other Irish traditions, including readings in Gaelic, Irish music, the prayer of St. Patrick and the hymn of Our Lady of Knock.

Before the concluding rite, Cardinal-designate O’Malley thanked Father Connolly for his kind words and all for their prayers.

“I ask that you continue to pray for me, to pray for the archdiocese, to pray for vocations as we have done throughout the week,” he said.

A novena to St. Patrick began with a holy hour at the cathedral on March 9. The monstrance used for adoration was one of six blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2004 and meant to promote prayers for vocations throughout the world. The monstrance traveled throughout the archdiocese before returning to the cathedral.

Many in attendance visited with each other before leaving the cathedral to go to family gatherings.

“That’s what the Irish do. You get up, you go to Mass and then you have dinner. It’s a tradition,” said Christine Ohman from Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in East Boston. Ohman, who has lived in Boston for 17 years, is from Ireland.

“It’s the highlight of our St. Patrick’s celebration,” said Paul Black from St. Thomas Moore Parish in Braintree.

Black, whose family is Irish, said the Mass is a tradition that is followed by visiting relatives. The Mass was “uplifting” and the homily was both inspirational and relevant for today, he added.

Frank Bane, whose wife is from Ireland, agreed, saying that the homily was timely. Bane, his wife and their three children brought up the gifts during the Mass.

Bane, from St. Patrick Parish in Watertown, said he was glad to see Father Connolly’s support and encouragement of the cardinal and hear so much about the great example of St. Patrick.

“St. Patrick was able to do his work because God used him. We need to do that too,” he said.