For me, St. Patrick’s Day is about much more than leprechauns and the color green. It always makes me think of a great mentor and spiritual leader in my life, Father Pat Shortt.
Father Pat grew up in Ireland and rode his bike to school many miles to and from school. As a young man, he was called into the priesthood and soon would be called ‘across the big water’ to a budding diocese in the middle of Missouri.
Father Pat was a ‘man’s man’. He enjoyed the outdoors hunting and fishing. He could create many masterpieces out of wood as an excellent carpenter.
Father Pat was a large man and had an equally large laugh, which he used often. He was easy to love.
I first knew of Father Pat as a priest in the diocese and met him when he married my aunt and then when he served as my confirmation priest. But I had no idea how years down the road, this man would be such a pivotal part of my life.
As my husband and I prepared for our wedding and married life, Father Pat was assigned to our parish. We were one of the first couples he married. He was a great support for my husband to make it through the ceremony without fainting (Chad would have much rather gone to Tennessee to the drive through chapel! He greatly dislikes being in front of people).
From there, Father Pat taught us how important our role of parents would be, as we awaited the arrival of our first son. I heard Father Pat tell parents many times, “Kids learn more from what is caught, than what is taught.” This was a challenge to live like Christ in our daily lives and not only lecture kids on how they should behave. He encouraged all church gatherings in order for the youth and young families to engage with older members of the congregation.
Father Pat loved babies. He would take a newly baptized babe from the arms of the parents and walk the center aisle introducing the little one to his or her new faith family. This was a bit discerning as a new mom-this giant man holding my little baby, but then Father Pat’s gentle and kind spirit was something even a very small child could feel.
Father Pat has been gone almost two years now, but his teaching and shepherding can still be felt. And there are reminders like the line from this Irish prayer, which he often blessed us with. It was the reminder that you could take the boy out of Ireland, but Ireland would never be out of the boy. As we face many unknown trials in the near future, this is my prayer for each of you today:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Author Unknown, but often attributed to St. Patrick.