Cardinal Brady also lamented the return of violence to Northern Ireland.
“It is my very great pleasure on this our National Feastday to wish Irish people everywhere a very happy and faith-filled St. Patrick’s Day,” he wrote on Tuesday. “All over the world today, Irish men and women, and those who claim Irish descent, will gather to celebrate their identity and their heritage.”
Saying the feast unites Irish people all over the world, he commented that Patrick has become a symbol both of Irish history and of Irish heritage.
“But simply to reduce Patrick to a symbol of that kind, worthy as it may be, without any reference to his own Christian faith distorts the truth and in no way does justice to the real stature of the man,” Cardinal Brady said, warning celebrants not to lose the “real focus” amid the “music, parades and merriment.”
“We join together today not just to celebrate Irish culture and identity, but also to remember the man who described himself as an ambassador for God and who prayed that it might never happen that he, Patrick, should lose the people which God had won for himself at the end of the earth. Today we honor a man who nurtured and spread Christianity throughout our native land – setting down a strong foundation by building on the solid rock of steadfast faith.”
“My hope, on this St. Patrick’s Day, is that more and more Irish people, who have lost their connection with faith, will rediscover it and rediscover what St. Patrick called ‘the joy and love of faith’.”
St. Patrick founded the Archdiocese of Armagh around 445 A.D.
Cardinal Brady, his successor, also commented on the recent killings of two British soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland.
Saying he is “very much aware” that violence has returned to Northern Ireland, Cardinal Brady said the “awful and tragic events” of last week could show the need to work “unceasingly” for peace in Ireland.
“I would urge all citizens to redouble efforts to build a peaceful society. Violence is not the answer. The perpetrators of violence are seeking to destroy the peace we are building,” he continued, calling for support for peacemaking politicians.
The cardinal then adopted as his own the prayer from St. Patrick’s Breastplate:
“Christ be in all hearts thinking about me
“Christ be on all tongues telling of me
“Christ be the vision in eyes that see me
“In ears that hear me
“Christ ever be.”