We are getting to that point in Lent when you might be flagging in your chosen discipline. Whether you’ve given something up or taken on a particular spiritual practice you may be having trouble sustaining it these days. Or perhaps you’ve forgotten altogether and are getting a guilty jolt just now from reading this! No matter what your personal situation is, you may enjoy this twist on the old legend about St. Patrick, whom we celebrate today.
It seems that one year in Lent, Patrick decided to do a forty-day fast atop a mountain in County Mayo. He had barely settled in, though, when he was utterly beset by crows. There were so many crows harassing him that they covered the sky and drowned out all other sounds for the whole forty days of the fast. Patrick soon realized that they were demons, sent to drive him to the brink of his sanity. His response was to keep right on praying anyway, despite being driven beyond distraction. (Also he kept ringing a bell, for some unknown reason!) Finally an angel appeared and told him that because he had been so faithful, the Irish would be Christian until Judgment Day. (That prediction seems to have not completely come true…)
But then we get to the part you probably know: on his way down the mountain after his fast was completed, Patrick ran into a bunch of snakes. And even though he had kept it together under the constant haranguing of the crows/demons for forty days, he finally snapped. He immediately ran at the snakes and chased them into the sea and away from Ireland forever!
The lesson I take from this decidedly fanciful story, is that even St. Patrick had trouble with spiritual practices! Sure he was pretty faithful the whole time he was on the mountain, but in the end, even he got a little testy from all that fasting and praying. So that might give us a little comfort, knowing that we may not be able to be perfect in all our disciplines either. But as a monastic saying goes, every day we begin again. No matter where you are with your spiritual practices this Lent, you can always begin again (or begin for the first time!) today. And tomorrow too!
And if you want some more eyebrow-raising stories about St. Patrick, check out this delightful article from America magazine: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2022/03/16/saint-patrick-jim-mcdermott-legends-242615.
I wish you all many Lenten blessings!