A member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians sits in the back of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross as Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley celebrates the St. Patrick’s Day Mass, March 17. Each year the Hibernians volunteer at the Mass, serving as ushers and helping distribute blessed shamrocks. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
SOUTH END -- The Mass reminded them of the true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day, and as they left, scores of Boston Catholics took home a pot of shamrocks to remind them of the significance of their beloved saint.
Catholics across the Archdiocese of Boston gathered at high noon March 17 at the mother church of their archdiocese, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, for a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley to honor St. Patrick, the principal patron of the archdiocese.
“It’s a religious day,” said Paschal Healy, a parishioner at St. Mary Parish in Walpole. “We celebrate what St. Patrick did for Ireland, and being here in America.”
During his homily, Cardinal O’Malley reminded those in attendance of the significance of St. Patrick to the Irish people. He spoke of how Ireland’s patron saint was enslaved in Ireland, and that the experience helped him Christianize the Irish because he learned their customs.
“In Patrick’s life, the tragedy he experienced was the defining moment that led him to God,” Cardinal O’Malley said.
Cardinal O’Malley also discussed the lessons St. Patrick can teach modern Catholics.
“God’s mission can be achieved only by those who are prepared to make a gift of their lives to others,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Our faith is a treasure not to be buried in the ground, but to be shared with others.”
“Following in Patrick’s footsteps is very difficult, but the world needs more Patricks,” he added.
Bagpipers began the Mass with a favorite Irish song, “The Minstrel Boy” as part of the entrance procession.
The Mass included hymns and readings in both English and Gaelic, a native language of Ireland. Hymns included “Prayer of St. Patrick,” “Lady of Knock,” and “Lift High the Cross.”
Dara Calleary, Minister of State for the Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, proclaimed the first reading in Gaelic, and Brother Anthony Cavet, a teacher at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, proclaimed the second reading in English. The Gospel was proclaimed in English and Gaelic. Catholic Memorial students John Houlihan, Bernard O’Donnell, and Conor Tynan read the Prayers of the Faithful in both languages.
In addition to Calleary, other Irish dignitaries in attendance included Secretary to the Minister John Maher, Consul General Michael Lonergan, and Vice-Consul Deirdre Ni Fhalluin.
Also in attendance was Massachusetts State Treasurer and independent gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill and former Ambassador to the Vatican and Boston mayor Ray Flynn.
During the Mass, Cardinal O’Malley blessed the potted shamrocks that flanked a statue of St. Patrick to the left of the altar. It is traditional for those in attendance to take the plants home afterwards.
Shamrocks were used by St. Patrick to teach the Irish people about the Trinity during his ministry there in the 5th century.
Like St. Patrick, Joan Wall, a parishioner at St. Brigid Parish in Lexington, used shamrocks to catechize. Wall, however, was an elementary school CCD teacher.
“I thought that was a beautiful way for them to learn about the Blessed Trinity,” she said.
Kevin Smyth, a parishioner at St. Charles Parish in Woburn, said that the shamrock is one of Ireland’s national emblems, and also noted the shamrock’s usefulness in teaching about the Trinity.
“The shamrock explains it all,” he added. “The shamrock is an indication of how St. Patrick explained it to them.”