It is no exaggeration to say that, in recent years, Ireland has become one of the most rapidly secularized countries in the world. This news comes with great sadness for thousands of people around the globe who have Irish ancestry and who treasure the gift of faith shared with them by Irish emigrants and missionaries. The reasons for the decline of faith are many, but the symptoms are there for all to see: the sharp decline in vocations, the sharp rise in the religiously unaffiliated, the legalization of same-sex marriage by a two-thirds majority in 2015, and the legalization of abortion in 2018 by an even greater majority. These signs were a wake-up call for the Church that confirmed not only the decline of faith but the widening gap between faith and the evolving culture.
Today, on the Feast of St. Patrick, we might well ask ourselves whether he is turning in his grave at the undoing of a Christian culture that remained in place for centuries but now is unraveling before our eyes. By way of response, perhaps Patrick would not want us to waste time feeling sorry for ourselves or lamenting the passing of an age when the Church was dominant. By contemplating the story of his life as a courageous evangelist, he inspires all people of faith not to stay locked behind closed doors in fear but to proclaim the Gospel with fresh heart and conviction to the culture. After all, this is what he did in the culture of his time—and in a transformative way. Within a few centuries, Ireland’s way and reputation changed from being a nation of uncivilized pagans to a nation of saints and scholars. This was the powerful and transforming effect of the Christian faith he brought us. Today, we face a challenge to evangelize as Patrick did—not to propose but to re-propose the Gospel with fresh vitality to a modern audience. This is our calling: to share the faith in a way that inspires Christians to be creators and shapers of modern culture. Here are three pointers from the witness of this beloved saint on how best we can do this.
Know who and what we are