Mission Report – March 23, 2017

March 22, 2017

St Patrick’s Day- Homily presented by Bishop Paul Bird CSsR at St Patrick’s College, Ballarat, March 17, 2017

In May this year, students from St Patrick’s College and students from Loreto College will present the musical West Side Story. It’s a musical set in New York in the 1950s. The main characters are Tony and Maria. They have links to rival teenage gangs, but despite this, Tony and Maria fall in love.- –

I remember seeing a television documentary about the music of West Side Story. The documentary showed the composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein working on a recording of the music. West Side Story includes some loud music, for example, when the two gangs meet for a fight. There is also some soft music, telling of the tender love between a young man and a young woman. The makers of the documentary took their cameras into the recording studio where the composer was supervising a new recording of the work.

One feature of those recording sessions that I found striking was that Leonard Bernstein spent so much time listening. As he was conducting the music, he was listening to the violins. He was listening to the trumpets. He was listening to the drums. He was listening to the singers. Every note. Every beat. He was listening. Then, after he had played songs over and over to get them just right, he would go to the control room to listen again -“ to check how the voices and instruments sounded when they were replayed. Leonard Berstein wanted to make a good recording and for that he knew that he had to listen carefully to every sound.

In some ways, we’re like the composer-conductor. We might not be writing a musical but we are writing our own real-life drama by the way we live. If this drama is going to turn out for the best, we too need to spend a good deal of time listening. Today’s feast tells us that we need to listen particularly to the voice of Christ. We celebrating the feast of St Patrick. He is remembered for spreading the message of Christ among the people of Ireland. He had heard the message of Christ himself and he wanted to share that message with others. In many ways, Christ was the focus of his life.

We see this in a prayer that is associated with St Patrick. The choir will sing some lines from this prayer as a communion reflection this morning. The hymn begins -Christ be with me-. The name of Christ is in every line. As we listen to the words on the feast of St Patrick, the hymn can suggest to us how St Patrick felt the presence of Christ in every aspect of his life. St Patrick believed in Christ not simply as someone who had lived many years ago but as someone who was with him in his own life. St Patrick had a vivid faith in Christ risen from the dead. He believed that the risen Christ was with him at each moment. Christ be with me, Christ within me. Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to comfort and restore me.

St Patrick believed that Christ was with him in all the ups and downs of life. He looked to Christ to guide him at each step of his journey. We too can look to Christ to guide us. We can listen to his voice day by day. And when we do take time to listen, we’ll find that Christ has a message for us at each stage of our life. It might be a word of encouragement. We might be feeling downhearted, troubled, anxious. Then Christ’s message might be one of reassurance: -Be not afraid. I am with you always.-

On the other hand, it might be more a message that challenges us. We might be like St Francis Xavier when he was a university student in Paris. He was focussing on becoming rich and famous but his fellow student, St Ignatius, reminded him of the words of Jesus: -What does it profit anyone if they gain the whole world but lose their own soul?–

Whether we need a message to encourage us or a message to challenge us, Christ has a message to give us, but to hear that message, we need to take time to listen. May we have the grace to listen to Christ as St Patrick did. May we listen to Christ’s message and may we take his message to heart. May we live by his words day by day.

Bishop Paul Bird CSsR