UNRESERVED TRUST IN GOD
The Saint Patrick window of our parish church by the Lady Altar and Baptistery shows an important historic scene in the life of the Saint. It shows Patrick’s first preaching to the heathen High King of Ireland on Easter Sunday, when he used the three-leafed shamrock as an image of the Mystery of the God the Holy Trinity. The year was 433 A.D., a Jubilee Year, the 400th Anniversary of the Redemption.
What Patrick later writes in his Confessio about the course of his apostolic mission to the Irish: “Whether I receive good or ill, I return thanks equally to God, who taught me always to trust Him unreservedly”; are words we might appropriate for ourselves as a prayer-word during these days of a world-wide pestilence. One lesson certainly being brought home to us is how utterly helpless we are before the larger forces (of nature) over us. If we did not have recourse to God then our situation would indeed be hopeless. But we do have recourse to God and His Divine Pity, and so we do have the confidence to “to trust Him unreservedly” in these events.
For a Christian, a time of mortality and pestilence ought to awaken a heightened sense of the contrast between this transitory life and the life of the world-to-come. Our lives on earth are contingent and subject to many hardships. Paradise-on-earth is not the Christian message. The eternal life which Jesus Christ Our Lord has won for us by His Cross and Resurrection is the real life we should be concerned about. Hand-washing and social distancing might help us avoid contracting the COVID-19, but they won’t help us save our souls. Only being converted to God can do that.
The palm branch we are accustomed to receive on Palm Sunday is symbolic of the victory of life over death. It represents our individual sharing in Christ’s Resurrection.
The custom of taking our palms home each year and placing them behind a home crucifix is much to be encouraged. As one spiritual writer explains its meaning:
“And at the end of [the Palm Sunday Mass] we take our palms home, and reverently place them behind our crucifix; and we would do well to use the palms of all the members of our family, placing them in the living room, the kitchen, the bedrooms, the garden—in any place where we pass our time—that they may remain there throughout the year. Why should we do that? Because at the end of [the Palm Sunday] Procession the priest says this prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, our King and Redeemer, we have carried these branches and sung solemn praises in Thy honor. Graciously let Thy grace and blessing rest wherever these branches are brought; with the powers of Thy right hand defeat every evil influence and deception of the devil while granting Thy protection to those whom Thou hast redeemed; who art living and reigning with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God forever and ever.’
The palms are not instruments of magic; they are not superstitious amulets supposed to possess power or virtue of their own; but they are visible signs of the power of the prayer of God’s Church which calls down the blessing of God upon all the places where they are put. We who have faith in the Church should have faith in her prayers, and make use of their power to our sanctification and protection.” (From Preparing for Easter by Father Howell, quoted in Pius Parsch’s The Church’s Year of Grace.)