Dear Catholic Exchange:
An Anglican friend of mine has been spreading a rumor that St. Patrick is no longer a saint. Would you please explain how she got this idea?
Dear Miss Podetz,
Peace in Christ!
This rumor in untrue. The Church continues to honor St. Patrick every March 17, and looks to him as an important patron of Ireland and a great apostle. Speaking to the bishops of Ireland on June 26, 1999, Pope John Paul II referred to St. Patrick first among the great Irish saints:
It is now twenty years since I made my Pastoral Visit to your country. On that occasion, I witnessed for myself that at the heart of the Irish Catholic experience is the combination of contemplation and mission, the two pillars on which every evangelizing effort must necessarily stand or fall. It was this combination that inspired Saint Patrick, Saint Colmcille, Saint Brigid, Saint Columbanus, Saint Oliver Plunkett, the Irish Martyrs and so many saintly men and women in more recent times to give up everything for Christ's sake, in order to make the Gospel known.You can read more about St. Patrick in our FAITH FACT: St. Patrick: The Apostle of Ireland.
To be very accurate, the Church can never “de-sanctify” someone. Once you are in Heaven, you are there for keeps. However, it is possible for the Church to remove a name of a saint from the general calendar. This was done most famously in the case of St. Christopher. Why would the Church do such a thing? On February 14, 1969, in his motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis (no.2), Pope Paul VI approved the new General Roman Calendar and discussed why some saints had been added or deleted. The Holy Father wrote:
To put these decrees of the Council into effect, the names of some saints have been deleted from the General Calendar and permission was granted to restore the memorials and veneration of other saints in those areas with which they have been traditionally associated. The removal of certain lesser-known saints from the Roman Calendar has allowed the addition of the names of martyrs from regions where the Gospels spread later in history. In consequence, the single catalog displays in equal dignity as representatives of all peoples those who either shed their blood for Christ or were outstanding in their heroic virtues.Removing a saint from the General Calendar does not prohibit devotion to him or her. It simply clears up room for more saints to be honored in the liturgy.
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