Full disclosure: my family tree doesn’t extend even a single root in Ireland. So when I traveled to Dublin last summer for the International Eucharistic Congress, I didn’t know much about the nation’s history. That would explain my surprise when Tourism Ireland proposed that, during our stay, we visit the country’s religious pilgrimage sites.
'Why would someone go on a pilgrimage here?' I wondered. Is the Christian tradition in Ireland really that old? After all, none of the twelve apostles ever ventured to those shores.
As I would soon discover, Christianity in Ireland goes all the way back to the 5th Century. And if you ask the Irish, they do have their own apostle, of sorts: St. Patrick.
It’s easy to disregard St. Patrick as a product of folklore, since legends and secular traditions have somewhat obscured the man himself. But while hagiographies of early saints can be hard to authenticate, Patrick’s historicity is beyond dispute. This, I learned, is due in large part to an autobiographical document called the Confession of St. Patrick, a letter that details his faith and mission.
No, St. Patrick probably didn’t expel snakes from Ireland. And he surely wouldn't condone excessive drinking on his feast day. Rather, he did, by his own account, baptize thousands of believers and, as a bishop, he ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. His legacy lives on in the faith of Irish Catholics -- both on the Emerald Isle and among the sizable diaspora in North America.
St. Patrick isn’t the whole story, though. To learn more about pilgrimage in Ireland, watch tonight’s new episode of Catholic Focus, airing at 7:05pm ET/4:05pm PT, repeating at 11:05pm ET/8:05pm PT (and again on Saturday at those same times).
Credit: S+L/Joshua Lanzarini
This Sunday, Pope Francis will join millions for an hour of prayer with the Blessed Sacrament. The initiative, called Worldwide Eucharistic Adoration, is part of the festivities of the Year of Faith invoked by Benedict XVI.
In sync with St. Peter’s Basilica, where Pope Francis will be present, parishes around the world will hold their own hours of adoration. (Catholics in India have responded to the call with particular enthusiasm; 19 million people are expected to gather in churches and convents throughout the country.)
The theme of the event, appropriately, is “One Lord, One Faith”. The faithful are asked specifically to pray for the following two intentions proposed by the Holy Father:
1. For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.
2. For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labour. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.
If your local parish isn’t offering adoration on Sunday, you can join those at the Vatican via S+L. Worldwide Eucharistic Adoration will be aired live at 11:00am ET / 8:00am PT, repeating at 9:30pm ET / 6:30pm PT. You can follow the prayers with the online booklet for the celebration.
Credit: CNS Photo / Paul Haring