Christmas Day has come! The Shepherds who lived in the fields in the area were “keeping the night watch over their flock.” (Luke 2:8)
Here we have yet another shepherd/sheep story…we have David the shepherd, and the shepherds that first Christmas night…and there are always sheep depicted in the manger scenes. We have Patrick the shepherd. We have Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who is called the Lamb of God.
Finney and the Leprechauns love the shepherds and try to help them when they can!
If we go to the Parable of the Good Shepherd in the Gospel of John, Chapter 10…my goodness lots of sheeptalk. In the first sentence of John: 10, the New American Bible uses the word “sheepfold.” The footnote defines it as “a low stone wall open to the sky.” So, what does that remind you of? Ireland is covered with low stone walls open to the sky!
If we go to http://www.libraryireland.com, we read in Early Irish History and Antiquities and History of West Cork, 1916, by W. O’Halloran, a portion of the writing of St. Patrick, himself, in his work known as the Confessio (“a sort of review of his life and work — was written by him when he was an old man, worn out with his labours” – P.W. Joyce, The Wonders of Ireland)…
“But after I had come to Ireland I was daily tending sheep, and I prayed frequently during the day, and the love of God, and His faith and fear, increased in me more and more, and the spirit was stirred, so that in a single day I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that I remained in the woods, and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer, in snow, and ice, and rain, and I felt no injury from it, not was there any slothfulness in me, as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent in me.”
Margaret Anne Cusack refers to this in An illustrated History of Ireland, expressing her thought that “had he not brought with him, from a holy home, the elements of most fervent piety,” his captivity might have been “a bitter one.” She says he “faithfully served the harsh, and at times cruel, master to whom Providence had assigned him. Perhaps he may have offered his sufferings for those who were serving a master even more harsh and cruel.”
In “The Wonders of Ireland” by P.W. Joyce, 1911, we read “No nation in the world was converted to Christianity in so short a time as the Irish, and no missionary, after the age of the Apostles, preached the Gospel with more success than St. Patrick. He was a man of strong will, and wherever he went the people he addressed were all the more willing to hearken to his preaching on account of the noble simplicity and purity of his life. He cared nothing for riches and honours and accepted no rewards or presents: but he loved the people of Ireland, and his whole anxiety was to make them good Christians.”
Sounds like St. Patrick’s love for the Irish people was born during his time as a shepherd, in captivity, among them.
The shepherds certainly have such a special place with God, for so many unique blessings have been granted them.
We have one more lamb story to finish up with…for now!
On August 21,1879, Our Blessed Mother came to the small parish church in Knock (toward the north and toward the west) in Co. Mayo. St. Joseph and St. John were with her, and Our Lady was looking toward heaven with her hands slightly raised. St. Joseph was on her right hand and had his head slightly toward her. St. John was on her left with his hand raised as if giving a blessing. There was a lamb resting on an altar behind them. Our Lady never said a word. Many cures have been reported. (The reference for this information is the Illustrated Book of Mary.)
In 1979, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Knock. There is hope that Pope Francis might also grace Ireland.
Jesus tells us that when a man leaves his “99” sheep to look for the one that is lost and finds it, “he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friend and neighbors and says to them, Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke:15:4-7)
Thank goodness for sheep, shepherd, and lamb…seems we would be well served to reflect on how they play important parts in the history of our Faith and God’s work among us, the Irish, and all God’s children. Finney has told us the story of Christmas night and the Angels and the Shepherds…let’s keep thinking of the Great Star and how its grand light gave us yet another story to tell…
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” (Luke 10:14-15)
God bless you and thank you for visiting Finney and me!