Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
March 14, 2023 // Diocese

St. Patrick and St. Joseph Very Well Represented Throughout Diocese

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

With five diocesan parishes (South Bend, Fort Wayne, Ligonier, Arcola, Walkerton) and two chapels (Lagro and Notre Dame’s Dillon Hall) named in honor of St. Patrick, it is clear that his legacy has deep roots in Indiana.

Outdone only by Our Lady, St. Joseph totals even more, with eight diocesan churches (South Bend, Mishawaka, Fort Wayne, Bluffton, Hessen Cassel, Lagrange, Roanoke, Garrett), two chapels (Holy Cross College and Notre Dame’s O’Neill Family Hall), and two rivers commemorating the foster-father of Our Lord and patron of the Universal Church. St. Joseph also serves as the patron of the Brothers of Holy Cross, who have ministered and served here since their arrival on Nov. 26, 1842. Notre Dame’s Log Chapel, established by the Congregation of Holy Cross, was also the first chapel erected in the diocese.

The widespread legacy of these two saints reveals the impact that can occur when one relies completely on the providence of God. Both St. Joseph and St. Patrick were given divinely appointed mandates to go into new lands with nothing more than trust in God’s Word, believing He would provide for them in every need.

St. Patrick, who was of British — and not actually Irish — descent, was kidnapped by Irish pirates as a teenager and forced to work on the Emerald Isle for six years as a shepherd. This time of persecution and isolation provided him time to consider his life’s meaning and purpose, leading him to more seriously embrace his Christian faith.

Escaping captivity and after difficult journeys, he eventually returned home and reunited with family. There he continued his spiritual and intellectual walk with Christ and began studying for the priesthood. It was then that he experienced a mystical vision where he felt beckoned to return to the people of Ireland and bring them the Gospel. After being ordained a priest, and later consecrated as a bishop by Pope Celestine, he undertook his mission of evangelization to Ireland.

In the “Confessions of St. Patrick”, he indicates that he baptized thousands of people, journeying far and wide with tremendous zeal to convert those who had only ever known pagan worship. Famous legends also speak of a standoff with the local king, when Patrick and his followers lit a large Paschal Fire, which defied orders from the local leaders. The ensuing confrontation led to a miraculous demonstration where Patrick proved the divine power of the Lord and gained the admiration of the king. This is also where Patrick’s connection to the shamrock arises, as he allegedly used it here to explain in simple terms about the unique nature of the Christian God as a Trinity of Persons. He remained in Ireland, continuing to preach, teach, and bring the sacraments to countless souls for the rest of his life amid dangers, opposition, and threats of martyrdom. His legacy also includes the establishment of many monasteries and convents, which kept the Catholic faith — some argue even western civilization itself — alive and sustained throughout multiple persecutions across Europe. He remains a heroic and celebrated figure in Ireland, where his feast on March 17 is observed as a national holiday.

Within the diocese, the presence of numerous churches in St. Patrick’s namesake reveals a patron for those — initially those of Irish descent — seeking Christ in a land that initially felt rather foreign, but would, in time, eventually come to feel like home.

This year, as St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, Bishop Rhoades has encouraged parishioners to continue to honor the penitential spirit of Lent by attending Mass or offering specific prayers. He has also emphasized that the legacy of such a revered saint with deep personal connections to the diocese should also be celebrated. For those who go to Mass or spend a half hour before the Blessed Sacrament or pray a rosary for peace on Friday, March 17, Bishop Rhoades has commuted the Lenten abstinence of meat. This directive honors both the seriousness with which St. Patrick dedicated himself to the spiritual conversion of those under his charge as well as the joy of the Church, which recognizes the influential legacy of St. Patrick that continues to bear fruit in the lives of Christians today.

On this day when many choose to communally partake in a celebratory drink, it also seems most fitting to honor St. Patrick by gathering around a fire, recounting the blessing and gift of Catholicism, and maybe inviting someone new into a conversation about faith, the same faith that St. Patrick spent his life sharing and defending. It might even include using the simple and seemingly insignificant things, like a little shamrock, to point towards the eternal truth and beauty of Christianity. Particular inspiration might also be found by recalling the words prayed at Mass each year on St. Patrick’s feast, that “through his merits and intercession, those who glory in the name of Christian may never cease to proclaim God’s wonderous deeds to all.”

The other saint mentioned previously who will be celebrated in the upcoming days needs less of an introduction. St. Joseph, known only for his actions — not his words — since the Church has no official account of anything he ever said during his earthly life, was the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus. Like St. Patrick, Joseph was also given a vision to venture into a foreign land when directed by an angel to take his wife and infant child into Egypt. The Holy Family lived in this pagan territory for seven years, witnessing in simplicity and humility the reality of the one true God. One imagines what sort of impressions this family left on their Egyptian neighbors that may have prepared them to later receive the Gospel after the fires of Pentecost propelled the apostles forward on their evangelical missions.

While Patrick is claimed most often by Christians of Irish descent, St. Joseph is a father figure to all who take Jesus as their Lord. Revered as patron of the Universal Church, St. Joseph’s feast is always observed as a solemnity, the highest class of Catholic feasts. It is often celebrated, especially in Italian parishes, by the tradition of the “St. Joseph Table”, where a large meal is hosted for the whole community in honor of St. Joseph, the preeminent provider for his family.

Like St. Patrick, who in his “Confessions” shared his own thoughts of unworthiness for the call he received, St. Joseph needed to be reassured by an angel of the Lord when unsure of how to proceed in his vocation. Both men took solace in the miraculous messages they received and were moved to exhibit a deeper outpouring of themselves in service to God and His Church, even in the midst of the unknown.

Normally observed each year on March 19, this year, St. Joseph’s feast will instead be celebrated the following day due to its falling on a Sunday. Only in extremely rare circumstances will a feast that occurs on Sunday not be transferred to a different day, emphasizing the importance of the primacy of Christ throughout the liturgical year. The few exceptions include the Solemnities of Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1), the Assumption of Mary (Aug. 15), Saints Peter and Paul (June 29), and All Saints (Nov. 1). Based upon everything known about the life of St. Joseph, he would be the first one to volunteer to step aside and give preeminence to Jesus.

In addition to honoring the Solemnity of St. Joseph with special food or drink, one may consider reflecting upon the role and importance of fatherhood. St. Joseph reflected the fatherhood of God to Jesus in the home of the Holy Family. He also serves as spiritual father to every Christian, as Mary serves as universal spiritual mother. The feast of St. Joseph can be a time to thank God for fathers or to perhaps ask God for a deeper outpouring of fatherly love, while also praying for particular fathers through St. Joseph’s intercession.

Additionally, the Church soon approaches the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ inauguration, which occurred on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 2013. In light of this, one might also consider praying for the Holy Father, asking both St. Joseph, who is the best of fathers, and St. Patrick, one of history’s greatest evangelizers, to aid and guide Pope Francis in his work of pastoring, protecting, and expanding the worldwide Church in faithfulness to the Gospel.

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