Saint-Patricks Day Mass at St. Patricks Basilica

Homily Archbishop Marcel Gervais


Delighted to be here with you again on this feast day of your patron saint. This year, however, my joy is greatly intensified by your wonderful work of restoring this magnificent building. You have made all things new. You did work of cleaning the entire building and the beauty of the ceiling now shows through once again; you freshened up the paintings that now come alive; you renovated your sanctuary which is indeed very beautiful and in keeping with the great artistry of the sanctuary. Light pours in from the exquisite stained glass windows. You have every reason to be proud, congratulations to all who contributed in any and every way to this wonderful accomplishment: you the parishioners for your support, the architects and the artisans for their skillful work, and Msgr Martineau for overseeing the whole project..

In this marvelous house of God, let us now humbly recollect ourselves and express our sorrow for our sins.


Isaiah 52:7-10:How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of messengers who announce peace, who bring the good news
Psalm 96: to proclaim Gods marvelous deeds to all nations
1 Peter 4:7b-11:Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God
Luke 10:1-9: the kingdom of God has come near to you ...


There is a wonderful story told of Saint Patrick which teaches, like many of us bishops, was absent minded. He was a great bishop who taught his disciples some very profound truths about Jesus and his sufferings for us. The reason I think it is a true story is that it is a little gruesome and it offers a great chance of being turned into a miracle but it never became a miracle ... so I think it actually happened. Here is the story taken from a web-site on Saint Patrick.

On such a day Aengus, a prince of Munster, was baptized. When Patrick had finished preaching, Aengus was longing with all his heart to become a Christian. The crowd surrounded the two because Aengus was such an important person. Patrick got out his book and began to look for the place of the baptismal rite but his crozier got in the way.

As you know, the bishop's crozier often has a spike at the bottom end, probably to allow the bishop to set it into the ground to free his hands. So, when Patrick fumbled searching for the right spot in the book so that he could baptize Aengus, he absent-mindedly stuck his crosier into the ground just beside him--and accidentally through the foot of poor Aengus!

Patrick, concentrating on the sacrament, never noticed what he had done and proceeded with the baptism. The prince never cried out, nor moaned; he simply went very white. Patrick poured water over his bowed head at the simple words of the rite. Then it was completed. Aengus was a Christian. Patrick turned to take up his crozier and was horrified to find that he had driven it through the prince's foot!

"But why didn't you say something? This is terrible. Your foot is bleeding and you'll be lame. . . ." Poor Patrick was very unhappy to have hurt another.

Then Aengus said in a low voice that he thought having a spike driven through his foot was part of the ceremony. He added something that must have brought joy to the whole court of heaven and blessings on Ireland:

"Christ," he said slowly, "shed His blood for me, and I am glad to suffer a little pain at baptism to be like Our Lord" (Curtayne).

The Prince of Munster must have been quite a Christian .. Saint Patrick must have been quite a bishop. His message must have been very powerful, to have impressed on the mind and heart of this pagan prince - no doubt a warlord of sorts - the message of Christs love and the purpose of his suffering. He obviously was a great saint of God and great man of the Church, a true messenger of the Good News. ?How beautiful upon the mountains of Ireland ? are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation ... There were Christians in Ireland before Saint Patrick, even a bishop, but Patrick is credited with the main work of teaching the Irish the faith.

For a man to say with a spike in his foot, ?Christ shed his blood for me and I am glad to suffer a little pain at my baptism to be like our Lord..

And this brings me to Mel Gibsons film,The Passion of the Christ. I can hardly go anywhere without running into someone who wants to know what I think of this film. I have issued an letter on it, now I want to revise this letter. Admittedly, the film is a vivid presentation of the agony and excruciating pain that our Lord suffered.

I have changed my mind about this film. Originally, I had said that I did not recommend it to anyone, now I say, see it if you can take the violence. See it because you will not find another presentation of the sufferings of our Lord that so graphically presents the reality of it all. Also, because of the kind of reflections that it can bring us to .

My change of mind came about as the result of long conversations that I have had with many Jews and many Christians on this film. My reflection in this homily come in large part from a Presbyterian Pastor, Doug Rollwage. These reflections have enriched my own appreciation of the film. It will take me a long time before I see it again, but see it again, I will.

On reflecting on the movie the first thing I became aware of was that my way of reading the Passion of our Lord had become very tidy, very clean, fit to be placed in a very comfortable living room. A nice painting. I was not aware that I had cleaned up his suffering till it was a plastic replica of the real thing. The shock caused by the violence and the ugliness of torn flesh were like an assault on my senses. No way would this picture hang in my living room. This is the kind of violence that we hide, that we shield ourselves from, and yet it is true, our Lord did ?suffer under Pontius Pilate. This phrase is no longer just a phrase, it is vividly real.

Is the film antisemitic? First of all - the movie is all about Jews: Jesus is a Jew, Mary is a Jew, Peter, James, John, all the apostles, the High Priest, the scribes, the Pharisees. Only Pilate and the Romans soldiers are not Jews. Its a Jewish story. Of course the higher authorities among the Jews asked for his death, but this does not mean that all Jews were responsible, and for all time. The Jewish nation as it exists today did not kill Jesus any more than we all killed Jesus. We are all implicated in his suffering and his death - because he endured this for us all - Jews and Gentiles.

A second point that needs to be made is this: who do the apostles represent, the Jews or Christians? They are the pillars of the Church to come. Peter, who denied him represents the Pope, Judas represents a bishop - like me . Judas made the arrest possible, he was the one who connived to identify him with a kiss. Poor Judas, having no faith in Jesus, no faith in his possible forgiveness, commits suicide. Christians are deeply involved in the suffering and death of our Lord, but that is not the point.

For the first Christians who were all Jews, the real question was not who killed Jesus? But, ?Does God love only the Jews? ?Can non-Jews fall under the grace of God and be saved like Jews can be saved as a result of the death of Christ? The answer is yes, pagans can also become followers of Jesus and enter the love of God., This realization came about rather slowly and painfully largely through Saint Paul.

The real point is this one. How did Jesus himself see his death? How did the Father in heaven view what happened? The early Christians saw clearly that it was God himself who gave, gave his Son for us. He is behind this event. ?God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son... And what did Jesus himself say about his suffering and death? I am the good shepherd and I lay down my life for my sheep. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

:I quote my Presbyterian friend: ?Nobody takes Jesus life; he gives it. And for whom does he give it?... (for) You. Me. Us. Them. The point is not that Jesus dies as a result of the machinations of the Jewish officials; the point is that he dies for the Jewish religious officials. The point is not that the crowd cries out for Jesus blood, the point is that Jesus sheds his blood for the crowd. The point is not that the Roman soldiers, on orders of Pilate, kill Jesus; the point is that Jesus gives his life for Pilate, for the Romans soldiers. Then Jesus said, ?Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34).

Again quoting from my friend: ?What this film illustrates in powerful, shocking, unforgettable ways, is what it must have cost God to give Jesus up into the hands of Gods children, for the sake of Gods children. The image that is given us is that of a father giving up his only son for the sake of all the people of the world. Humanly speaking, non of us would do it, though Abraham was prepared to do it, but God did do it, for our sake.

Remember what we say the Nicene Creed: For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again.

I do not think that we need to have a bishops crozier stuck in our foot to appreciate that Christ suffered for us, he died for us. Saint Patrick pray for us. We need to rediscover the saints enthusiasm for spreading the news about Christs love for us.

This film can help you to be messengers of Good News. Evangelizers , proclaiming Gods infinite love. It can help us probe anew 'the breadth and the length, the height and the depth (Eph 3:18) of the love that is manifest in the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Rev. Doug Rollwages sermon can be found at : [email protected].)