Tag Archives: Catholic

Father Patrick Tonry, a priest of forty years in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, has served as a pastor, military chaplain, prison chaplain, spiritual director, and editorialist.   I received "The Green Suit" recently which was written by him and have permission to share this St. Patrick's Reminiscence with our Irish brothers & sisters and those who have the Irish spirit.

As a young boy, there was one day I looked forward to with as much anticipation as Christmas.  No, it was not my birthday; the day I eagerly awaited was March 17th.

March 17th held special meaning in the Tonry household.   It was St. Patrick's Day, my parents' wedding anniversary and the day they immigrated to the United States.  My parents were married in 1927, in Ireland on St. Patrick's day.  Immediately after their wedding ceremony, they boarded a ship and sailed to the U.S. to begin their married life in a new country.

If the 17th of March fell dring the wk week, my father would take the day off work.  We kids had the day off, as did all the children who attended Catholic schools in Brooklyn and New York City.  To properly honor both my parent's wedding anniversary and the Feast of St. Patrick, we went to early morning Mass as a family.

My parents, my two older brothers and my little sister would dress in their Sunday best.  As the youngest son, I was given a special honor. I wore the color of the day    I had a beautiful emerald green suit with a matching tie. It was a source of pride for me that i was the only one in the family who had a green suit.  Naturally, I was only permitted to wear this suit on St. Patrick's Day.

After celebrating Mass, we would go back home and eat a big breakfast.  This special breakfast would keep us fueled for what seemed to me the longest journey ever:   the train and bus rides into New York City for the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The train and buses were filled with families going into the city to watch the parade.  We would line up along Fifth Avenue and wait for the parade to begin.  It was thrilling.  I was awe-struck by the high school marching bands.  The sound of the drum lines would set my heart racing.  It was a beautiful sight to see the Irish dances come down the street, dancing in unison.

Some years, we would shiver because it would be so cold.  Yet, we stayed and watched the parade through the rain, wind, snow and sunshine.  We never left the parade until the flag of my mother's and father's country in Ireland passed.

Right after the parade, our family went to a small restaurant to have dinner.   My parents did not have much money, and they saved a little each month so the entire family could eat out on this day.  In fact, St. Patrick's Day was the only time we would ever eat out.  We always had dinner at home.

....These traditions in a family ceate meaning that makes family occasions more memorable.

The reason St. Patrick was special to my parents was because he gave his life in service to God and the people of Ireland.  His story begins in the early 400's.  Patrick was the son of a Roman official and at the age of 16, he was kidnapped and taken to pagan Ireland.  He lived in slavery for six years working as a shepherd.  During his enslavement. Patrick turned to God for comfort and companionship.  Patrick escaped, returned home and entered the priesthood.  Years later, he returned to Ireland as Bishop, his love of the Irish people drawing him back.  He traveled throughout the island, overcoming opposition from hostile chieftains and pagan Druids and converting most of Ireland to the faith.

...Today everyone can be like St. Patrick. a living reflection of the Gospel.   May the love of St. Patrick be with you and may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Father Patrick Tonry, SM  February 2017




"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

The Catholic church observes Ash Wednesday, on March 1st this year. The Ash Wednesday observation begins the forty-day season called Lent which precedes the celebration of Easter, Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The Forty Days are symbolically observed by the Church and are followed by the Three Days of the Triduum, from Holy Thursday evening, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and through Easter Sunday.

Ashes are a symbol of penance by the blessing of the Church, and come from a ceremony of past times when Christians who had committed grave faults were given public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop would bless the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, the sinners were turned out of the church because of their sins -- and not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday (known today as Holy Thursday) after having won reconciliation by forty days' penance. This tradition revolved to later Christians, who came to receive ashes out of devotion and to be reminded that we are from dust and to dust we shall return.

The ashes are still made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by incense. They are administered by the priest, deacons and lay ministers on Ash Wednesday in the shape of a cross to foreheads of the church community. They are marked with ashes to remind humble hearts that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told "Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return."

The Teutonic word, Lent, which denotes the forty days' fast preceding Easter, originally meant the spring season. It has been taken from the Anglo-Saxon period translated from the Latin term 'quadragesima', meaning the "forty days"

An excerpt taken from Pope Benedict XVI's meaningful 2009 Lenten message --- "For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to focus my reflections especially on the value and meaning of fasting. Indeed, Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb, Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter. After the Forty Days, Jesus then began a journey of healing and teaching which would end with his death, Resurrection, and Ascension.

He Himself sets the example, answering Satan, at the end of the forty days spent in the desert that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. The true fast is thus directed to eating the “true food,” which is to do the Father’s will. "He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry". {Ref: Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten Message 2009}.

For this reason, Catholics begin a season of penance, reflection and fasting which is an opportunity for spiritual renewal and self improvement. Some Catholics fast or 'give up' in sacrifice something which holds importance to them. For some it can be a habit or a food or a personality trait. Others, instead of 'giving up' something may chose to bring additional positive habits into their lives such as charitable good works, being kinder to others, being a Samaritan or refraining from temptations of the world.

Fasting is also an aid to open one's eyes to the less fortunate of our brothers and sisters. In John's First Letter, “If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him – how does the love of God abide in him?”. Voluntary fasting enables one to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who sacrifices to help his suffering brother.

Ref: Catholic Online; www.Catholic.org; At Home With the Word 2010

Marie Coppola Revised February 2016