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St Patrick’s Day 17 March 2024

St Patrick: A prophet for global justice
St. Patrick is one of a handful of Christian saints (along with Mary, Valentine and Francis) celebrated in popular culture. Most people know that the missionary Patrick (Patricius or Pádraig) helped to bring Christianity to Ireland in the 5th Century. Some may remember how his first visit to the island was as a slave. Sadly, only a few may remember Patrick’s opposition to structural injustice and his prophetic defence of victims of violence and human trafficking. As with so many of our saints, Patrick’s radical application of the Gospel has been domesticated and stripped of its challenging message. Rather than witnessing to the prophetic and loving call of God’s mission, Patrick has been turned into a caricature, and commercialised. In his open Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, Patrick publicly denounced Coroticus, a warlord (and possibly king) from his British homeland, because he practised taking Irish slaves. The letter begins by denouncing those who engage in the slave trade and laments deeply the loss of all those touched by the evil of slavery. Such practices dehumanise both the victim and the perpetrator.

Sadly this is very relevant to our present context. Millions of people still profit from the mistreatment, low wages and dehumanizing working conditions imposed on others. Modern slavery continues to thrive in the chocolate industry, and it’s something we need to be thinking about particularly at this time of year as we shop for Easter eggs. Recent studies have estimated that there are around 2 million child labourers in west Africa. These children have been duped, trafficked across borders and forced into servitude to fuel our demand for chocolate. These children work extreme hours in dangerous situations. The work is hard and relentless. They use machetes, pesticides and other chemicals, all without safety equipment. If they fail to meet quotas or are deemed not working hard enough, they are beaten. All this, for chocolate. Child slavery is devastating for the children involved, but it also impacts the country. Enslaved children are unable to go to school, permanently stunting their academic capabilities. In turn, this prevents them from working in legitimate businesses that contribute to the economy, depriving the country of significant economic growth.

“Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act.” (Pope Francis, 2015)

Prayer (from St Patrick’s Lorica)
I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation
St. Patrick (ca. 377)

Other resources (prayers, video, reflections) can be found here.