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We are approaching Passiontide, but there are still a few feasts to cheer us on this week: St Patrick on Tuesday, and St Joseph on Thursday.

There is something immensely reassuring about these two fatherly saints. St Patrick’s ‘breastplate’, with its marvellous trinitarian undergirding, reminds us that we are truly protected when we invoke the name and attributes of God. Not protected from all harm: but given the strength to cope with harm, to respond well to the challenges that life throws up.

The first reading at Mass of St Patrick, from Jeremiah, gives us a wonderful image of God touching the mouth of the prophet so that he will speak not his own words, but God’s. In the second reading (Romans 10:9-18, which Ireland is lucky enough to have) St Paul gives a powerful witness to the necessity of one of the great attributes of St Patrick: inspirational preaching. Such spiritual combattants bring a sure antidote to the lunging serpents which trip us up, particularly during Lent. The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound.

Equally welcome to my family, when he emerged on that balcony just over two years ago, was Pope Francis. Not only did he take the name of one of our favourite saints (my late husband Strat’s confirmation name, in fact), but he chose the feast of St Joseph for his installation. To me this said everything about the kind of father he intended to be – one who is a true custos – a man who knows how to protect that which is entrusted to him. Just as the Holy Father commemorated the anniversary of his election with a night of special prayer last Friday, I am sure he would wish us to remember what he said to us two years ago on the Feast of St Joseph.

Leonie Caldecott is the editor of MAGNIFICAT UK and Ireland

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