A long title for a short post.
As you may have noticed by now, our parish's patron is Saint Patrick of Ireland. You may also have intuited by other things I have said, I might well be the only person in the community who refers to the good Bishop as "our parish's patron." I have no problem with that. I have been thinking of late about why
it is that we have patron Saints, and what that means for our worship. In the narrative of the Christian Church, we look to particular people who by their lives and teaching give us upstanding examples of how to grow in faithfulness and conformity to Jesus Christ in all manner of instances. We discover in Christ a vision for redeemed humanity at peace and union with God, and we discover in the "Communion of Saints" what it can look like for ordinary people to be healed and redeemed into this new humanity that looks so much like Christ. Essentially, the Church teaches that holiness requires some imagination, and the examples of those who have gone before us serve to fire it up.
One of the reasons our community has Saint Patrick as a patron - as a model of discipleship to Jesus - is that he was a certain kind of missionary in a particular culture. We believe that we need to be a similar kind of missionary in a similar kind of culture. I'll talk about just what I think that means later on. I've been thinking how we can put the life of Patrick more "up front" in our life together as a parish, so I've decided to add this collect adapted from the BCP to our intercessions at Mass:
O Almighty God, who has compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant Patrick the missionary, may grow in love for those with whom we share our lives, and earnestly work and pray for their healing and salvation. Make us faithful and fruitful like Patrick, and cause us to persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with Mary, Patrick, and all thy saints attain to thine eternal joy; Lord, in your mercy -
- hear our prayer
Or, "...through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
."So great a cloud of witnesses
The language here is from Hebrews 11, which invites us to see those who have gone before us as companions and fellow travelers. These brothers and sisters in Christ enjoy the full presence of God now, and as we worship, we join our own prayers with theirs and Christ's. Their companionship should be seen as encouraging, and the example they offer teaches us that holiness is something that we can know and experience - it's not just a pipe dream; we really can
belong to God in every aspect of our lives.healing and salvation
We have a proclamation - a story - about how the Creator God has saved and healed the world through Jesus Christ. that work of healing and restoration is ongoing, and we mean for everyone in the Christian community, as well as our "neighbors" who are not part of that community to experience the benefits of same. Jesus seeks to make us into a people who fervently desire abundant life - a life that is cleansed and healed of bitterness, addiction, and fear - for everyone. Mary, Patrick, and all thy saints
We look to our Lady as a model of discipleship. As she said to the angel, "Let it be unto me according to your word," so we also learn to say to God, "Let the good news of your dominion so form my own life, that I might also become a God-bearer, a conduit of healing and restoration for my friends and enemies alike." Like Patrick, we wish to be missionaries who approach our culture lovingly, nurturing a counter-culture that engenders (are you getting this yet?) healing and restoration.
Father, send your Spirit upon your people, that we might burn with love.
Lord Jesus Christ, continue the work of new creation in us.
O Creator Spirit, come and draw forth that creation in our lives.
O holy Theotokos, pray for us sinners, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Patrick, bishop and elder brother, pray to the Lord for us, that he would continue to form us as healers, teachers and apostles.