Since crowded bars and parades are out for now, let’s turn to other ways to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day by looking to the Saint himself for inspiration. Saint Patrick put the welfare of others before his own. Kidnapped and enslaved in Ireland, he spent six years in isolation growing closer to the Lord. When he escaped back to his home, he found his vocation was to bring the Gospel to those in Ireland, a risky endeavor. We too can take time in isolation to find courage to serve others.
One of the most powerful things we can do is pray for one another. The great prayer of the celebration of Mass is not available publicly in all places at this time, but it continues everywhere in all parishes, by all priests, all over the world. At any moment of the day, you can join yourself to the sacrifice and celebration of the Mass. Ask God to let you receive all the graces of a spiritual communion. Being conscious of His Presence in you, around you, and with you always, thank Him for his goodness, praise Him, and adore Him. Ask Him for protection, health, and recovery, both spiritually and materially for you, your friends and family, and all those affected by the coronavirus and the measures needed to limit its spread. There’s a beautiful prayer composed by Saint Patrick, called the Lorica, asking for God’s protection. Here are several downloadable images of sections of the prayer. The full version can be found here.
(2) Visit a church virtually
In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, you might do a virtual tour of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I visited this remarkably beautiful Neo-Gothic church a while ago and invite you to enjoy images on the Tin Can Pilgrim Facebook page. I was struck in particular by the architecture drawing my gaze upward and by the intricate beauty of the detailed side chapels.
Or, you could visit a local church dedicated to Saint Patrick. Last year, I posted on my blog about a visit to Saint Patrick’s church in Kokomo, IN. This church has some of the loveliest stained glass windows I’ve seen. Such beauty helps us to pray.
(3) Service to others
That service may simply be social distancing physically or reaching out by phone or other media to encourage those who are alone. Or, if you are healthy and low risk, you may want to help by offering to shop for or run errands for those who cannot do so without much greater risk. Many churches and charities are providing such services upon request.
(4) Offer up your own isolation and other sufferings
Nothing is wasted when we unite it to Christ’s suffering to save souls. This is a mystery with great relevance to the present time. How you can best understand it may depend on your own personality and background, so I’m offering a choice of references. Here’s a beautiful reflection on the economy of salvation, where we can join into the mystery of the Cross for the benefit of others. Here’s a simpler explanation tied to Scripture. If you prefer, here’s a compelling analogy to a gift of something precious. Whatever the best way to try to comprehend the value of suffering, what to remember is that suffering has meaning and value. When you are aware of that, it becomes easier to bear it. Even better, offering up your suffering in union with Christ’s sacrifice opens a floodgate of grace to benefit you and others. This grace can transform suffering to joy even while it remains painful.
(5) Grow closer to your family and friends
This is a wonderful opportunity to slow down. Play with your children. Read a book. Draw or color or engage in a hobby that doesn’t involve personal interaction with someone at great risk. You can download a coloring page, FaceTime an old friend, clean the garage, organize your home, or hold a virtual prayer group by using online tools. If you are anxious and can’t tear yourself away from news reports and posts about the latest coronovirus news, remember God is with you and loves you. Saint Patrick, in his loneliness and desolation far from home, knew this love. May he pray for us and lead us to experience the peace of surrendering our fears to God.