March 2020: Prayers and Reflections

The Pope’s Monthly Intentions
We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity.

Tenth Anniversary of Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland
From the sixteenth century on, Catholics in Ireland endured a long period of persecution, during which they struggled to keep the flame of faith alive in dangerous and difficult circumstances. Saint Oliver Plunkett, the martyred Archbishop of Armagh, is the most famous example of a host of courageous sons and daughters of Ireland who were willing to lay down their lives out of fidelity to the Gospel. After Catholic Emancipation, the Church was free to grow once more. Families and countless individuals who had preserved the faith in times of trial became the catalyst for the great resurgence of Irish Catholicism in the nineteenth century.

In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values.

With this Letter, I wish to exhort all of you, as God’s people in Ireland, to reflect on the wounds inflicted on Christ’s body, the sometimes painful remedies needed to bind and heal them, and the need for unity, charity and mutual support in the long-term process of restoration and ecclesial renewal.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is out of deep concern for all of you at this painful time in which the fragility of the human condition has been so starkly revealed that I have wished to offer these words of encouragement and support. I hope that you will receive them as a sign of my spiritual closeness and my confidence in your ability to respond to the challenges of the present hour by drawing renewed inspiration and strength from Ireland’s noble traditions of fidelity to the Gospel, perseverance in the faith and steadfastness in the pursuit of holiness.

Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland,
19 March 2010 (from ## 3, 4, 5, 13)

Sacred Scripture… proves both sweet and bitter… The sweetness of God’s word leads us to share it with all those whom we encounter in this life and to proclaim the sure hope that it contains (cf. 1 Pet 3:15-16). Its bitterness, in turn, often comes from our realization of how difficult it is to live that word consistently, or our personal experience of seeing it rejected as meaningless for life. We should never take God’s word for granted, but instead let ourselves be nourished by it, in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with him and with our brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis, Aperuit Illis 12

St Patrick Today
Patrick’s story is much more than one individual’s faith. Rather he re-proposes the Christian vision to the world: a definite goal to work for, live for and die for. His story is a reminder of humanity’s call to a common fraternity, a sense of commitment and mission to spread hope and love. In a post-modern world, we are challenged to think again and reconsider the essential questions of life and faith that Patrick and our faith ancestors grappled with centuries beforehand. His costly love, his generosity and authority embody the promise and lure of a future shared together in peace.

Fr Billy Swan,
The Experience of God in the Writings of Saint Patrick: Reworking a Faith Received
(Rome: Gregorian University Press, 2013), 375.