John and Charles Wesley (feast 3 March) were Anglican priests responsible for the spiritual awakening in the 18th century Church that gave rise to Methodism. They were nick-named “Methodists” by their fellow students at Oxford, in token of their systematic approach to devotions. Each actually died as an Anglican priest. The split between the Church of England and Methodism resulted from the issue of how to provide for bishops in the American colonies. No bishop was ever named in an American colony, and attempts to do so met significant resistance from independence-minded colonists who viewed bishops as agents of the English crown. This is perhaps another example of how politics can divide, and raises the question of what the Church would like absent the split between Anglicanism and Methodism.
St. Patrick (d. ca. 461, feast is 17 March) is remembered for the evangelization of Ireland. As great a saint as Patrick was, let’s not let him overshadow our Lord’s foster father, St. Joseph (19 March). Joseph’s feast is one of two (the second being the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March) in which liturgical colors change in Lent, i.e., the feast takes precedence over the season. The Feast of the Annunciation, which commemorates the annunciation by the archangel Gabriel to Mary that she will bear the Messiah (Luke 1.26-38) was, in the West, New Year’s day until 1582.
March can be remembered as the month of three Gregories: Gregory of Nyssa (d. 394; feast 9 March) was one of the “Cappodocian Fathers,” early theologians instrumental in the development of doctrine about the Holy Trinity. Gregory the Great (d. 604; feast 12 March) was Bishop of Rome. He reformed much of the liturgy in the western church, with much church music being afterwards referred to as Gregorian Chant. Gregory the Illuminator (d. 332; feast 23 March) was missionary to Armenia, the first Christian kingdom.
Finally, note that Sundays are not part of the season of Lent. Sundays are feasts of our Lord, and spiritual disciplines such as fasting do not apply. In earlier times these disciplines were generally observed on Sundays in Lent, and the fourth Sunday was set aside as Laetare Sunday (the name derives from the incipit—a sort of opening line in the old Mass—for the feast), from the words “Laetare Jerusalem” (“Oh by joyful, Jerusalem,” from Isaiah 66.10). Laetare Sunday has traditionally been marked by expressions of joy not otherwise seen in Lent, e.g., flowers at the altar. This day is, for example, the only day during Lent when a wedding may be celebrated.
The last Sunday in March is Palm Sunday, the Sunday of the Passion. During the Mass the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His betrayal and death, are retold.