Friday past, 5th March, was the Feast Day of Saint Ciaran of Saigher. Ciarán was Bishop of Saigher (Seir-Kieran) and is the Patron Saint of the Diocese of Ossory. I have to confess that I do not know much about Saint Ciarán of Saigher. In fact, if I am very honest, I had never heard of him until I started to think about what I would write for this piece. I am slightly more familiar with Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise, but even with him, my knowledge is limited.
I do not know why, but when I was growing up, I was always proud of the fact that I was named after a saint. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that very few famous people back then had the name Ciarán. About the most famous Irishman with the same name as myself was Ciaran Fitzgerald, a former rugby union player, who captained Ireland to the Triple Crown in 1982 and 1985, and the Five Nations Championship in 1983.
I was less proud of my middle name, Pio, because the mere mention of it by a teacher gave rise to rousing laughter and ridicule, aimed at me; emanating from my classmates, who would then torture me about it for the rest of the school day. In later years, and with the gift of maturity, I have come to be very proud of this name too.
It is one thing having the same name as a saint, but it is another thing trying to emulate them in daily life. It is especially hard when many of us work in an increasingly secular world, where there is not much space for God. It is hard in the daily cut and thrust of life to live our lives as mirror images of Jesus. Some of us give into the temptations of the devil despite our best intentions. This can manifest itself in different ways, whether it be engaging in disagreements and falling out with members of our families, friends or people we work with, holding grudges, judging others, speaking ill of people, or generally behaving in ways that are contrary to the teaching of Jesus.
In a General Audience, Saint Peter’s Square on 19th November 2014, Pope Francis said that “we are all called to be saints”, and that holiness is not “granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer”. In other words, whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, whatever our state of life, we should always strive to follow the example of Jesus in the Gospels. The Holy Father went on to say that, “it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to be saints…. Always and everywhere, you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness”.
I am not a saint by any stretch of the imagination, very few of us are, but as long as we try, that is what matters.
Ciarán Pio McAlister, is a Court Clerk with NI Courts and Tribunal Service. He is a member of the Choir at Saint Eugene’s Cathedral Derry and a volunteer with the Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre.
Image © Iosas Centre and Celtic Garden