Fr. Daniel Gifford
St. Patrick & The Freedom To Carry The Cross
One full week of Lent down. How’s it going for you? Is the cross getting heavy? Be not
discouraged. Persevere. The cross was very heavy on Our Lord’s back and He fell beneath it. The third station (front cover) is only the first of three falls. If you look at each of them (Stations III, VII, and IX), you will notice that it looks as if He is falling lower and lower each time, as if the cross becomes heavier with each step. Doesn’t it seem this way for us sometimes? Part of the beauty of the way that the stations can move our hearts to greater love for Our Blessed Lord in His suffering for our salvations from our sins is found in how we recognize that He is with us in those moments when the cross seems heaviest. He is so very near to us, even when we recognize that we are falling beneath it. He will not abandon us. He comes to us with great compassion in our sufferings. And this moves our hearts to have compassion on Him in His sufferings. This is why we seek to console His Heart, especially with prayer and almsgiving. Our fasting, abstinence and other sacrifices, meanwhile, are part of what set us free to renew our strength in carrying our cross with Christ. Some things that we need to “give up” and let go of are those things that we know to be sinful or even occasions of sin, and we are striving to give them up for good. Other things, we recognize may not be sinful, but we might recognize that we are attached to them. It can be helpful for us to consider that, by choosing to give them up, whether for a day, a week, maybe the length of a novena, of for the whole forty days of Lent, we are reclaiming our freedom. When we are attached to something, whether good, bad, or neutral in itself, it limits our freedom. We are not free to receive anything unless we are also free to say no to that thing. By choosing to say no every once in awhile, we set our hearts free. The heavier the attachment, the more we might sometimes find that we are in need of help breaking free, especially when that attachment has become an addiction. If we need help, we should never be ashamed or afraid to ask. Sometimes the process of trying to let go on our own first leads us to share a bit in the pain in the Lord’s heart, as He looks upon His child who is not free. He desires to set us free. Prayer, Sacraments, and Virtue in our personal life are essential parts of this journey to freedom, but they are often only the beginning. It is never a sign of weakness to ask for help - it is a sign of humanity, which is far more glorious than we realize. Our saint for this weekend stands as a reminder of the Lord’s desire to set us free: Saint Patrick, the great saint credited with the evangelization of Ireland. He first went to Ireland as a slave. The Lord worked through that slavery to change his heart, so that he left Ireland (the first time) a devout Christian who would become a priest, a bishop, and a missionary, who would return to the land of his prior slavery… to set them free. He would not do so by breaking physical chains with violent force, but by driving the serpent out of their hearts, that their hearts may be free to give themselves to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He who had known the pain of bondage became an instrument of setting others free. This is why recovering addicts often become experts on mercy and grace. Whether or not addiction is our burden, the Lord wants us to set us free to carry our crosses, knowing that we are not alone beneath them.
LENTEN SERIES, SESSION TWO: This week, we continue our discussion on how the Lord reveals His Heart to us, as we reveal ours to Him, in Session II: Hearts Unveiled. Some might wonder, what if I missed last week? Should I still come? Great question. Part of the reason for giving each week it’s own title and topic is that each session can stand on its own. Certainly, they build on one another, so that one gets the fullest picture by coming each week. But, the coming weeks will involve some basic recapping and will be designed in such a way as to be beneficial, even for those who only are able to come that week. Thanks for asking.
PRAYER AND ALMSGIVING: You will notice something later in this bulletin that deserves a bit of extra comment. At the recommendation of the bishops, part of our response to the tragic failure to uphold very basic human rights to essential healthcare, to the point of allowing innocent children to die, by passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, is to pray for the conversion of our politicians who voted against it by name. This is not a matter of labeling them as an enemy (and we must not allow that mentality to seep into our hearts). This is exactly what the prayer says: praying for them. Taking up this prayer into your own daily prayer life is not only an exercise in prayer, but also can be seen as a kind of almsgiving (along with whatever other peaceful action you might take). It is about concern for the weakest among us, including an act of love for those who are currently standing against those little ones. Whenever someone is genuinely convinced by the lies of the serpent that attack both women and their children alike (see Revelation 12), they are in a kind of bondage. Like St. Patrick, we do not turn to a violent solution, but pray that the serpent be driven out of their hearts. Pray for us, Saint Patrick, that hearts may be changed and set free in our nation, too.
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!