They have called the man whose feast day we celebrate on March 17, by many names: Patricius, Patrice, Padraig or Patrick.
In whatever language, though, the term saint is placed before his name. The word saint comes from the Latin word sanctus or holy.
A saint in the Christian tradition first of all refers to a godly person.
We know some facts for certain about St. Patrick’s life. Born in Britain he spent most of his life in 5th-century Ireland, first as a slave then as a missionary. Much of his story beyond this though has become wrapped in legend and lore.
Two short written works of his have come down to us. His Epistola basically denounces British mistreatment of Irish Christians presaging centuries of conflict.
The Confessio, a short spiritual autobiography written around 450, provides some details of his life and faith.
In one passage of the Confessio he tells of his flight from slavery in Ireland. When Patrick and the crew of the boat that had rescued him reached land, however, their travails did not end.
They journeyed through uninhabited countryside for days. They ran out of food and faced starvation.
Finally the steersman challenged Patrick, “Why is it, Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful; then why can you not pray for us? For we may perish of hunger; it is unlikely indeed that we shall ever see another human being.”
Patrick responded to his challenge. “Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for Him, so that today He will send food for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere He abounds.
“And with God’s help this came to pass; and behold, a herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes. And after this they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed in their eyes, and from that day they had food abundantly.”
Miracles those unexpected acts of divine generosity have their human equivalent.
We see individual and community acts of selfless giving around us everyday. A couple of weeks ago Michael Fagan, a member of the Madonna House apostolate, visited Maryhouse.
He had been instrumental in the establishment of the Edmonton Gleaners Association some 25 years ago. It is regarded by many as Canada’s first real food bank.
A small group of people saw a need and banded together to address it. They sought not only a way to collect surplus food and distribute it to the hungry but also seek solutions to the causes of hunger.
This included challenging government, which meant for Michael Fagan “reflect back to them their social responsibility”.
Their efforts gradually grew into the Edmonton Food Bank, which now provides food for over a quarter of a million meals a month and hampers to another 14,000 people.
A fundamental down-deep-in-the-bone spirituality sustains Michaels’ actions as they did Patrick’s.
“We are on this globe together and we must look after one another,” Michael affirmed. “You can’t forget this spirit, the rich don‘t save the poor; the poor save the rich.”
Fagan came to Maryhouse to help it in a time of reflection on the future of food program. Initially intended to fill an emergency, last-resort role, Maryhouse has been overwhelmed by the continuing needs of the hungry here in our community.
Is it time for us to consider creating a genuine food bank in our community?
Will our hunger for justice, compassion and peace ignite common actions?
The Yukon Peace Coalition will hold a potluck on March 18 from 7 to 10 p.m. in the United Church basement.
It will also provide an opportunity for concerned individuals to reflect on the need for peace in our world on the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.
All are welcome. For more information call 668-4221.
The Yukon Development Education Centre invites people interested in getting involved in African development to a day-long Harnessing the Wave Symposium at Yukon College on March 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Africans and Yukoners who have been engaged in development in this region will be challenging us to find ways to become meaningfully active. For more information call 633-6579.