You probably don’t even care why, but before you drink a green beer tonight let’s take a look at the mysterious man behind the holiday and why we celebrate him as one of the greatest missionaries of all time.
St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents, either toward the end of the fourth century or the beginning of the fifth. Although his father was a Christian deacon, there is no evidence that Patrick was particularly religious. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders (Barbarians) who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years as a slave in captivity. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to God.
Patrick writes “After I had arrived in Ireland, I found myself pasturing flocks daily, and I prayed a number of times each day. More and more the love and fear of God came to me, and faith grew and my spirit was exercised, until I was praying up to a hundred times every day and in the night nearly as often.”
During this time Patrick writes that He came to love his captors, to identify with them, and to hope for their reconciliation to God. Crazy Huh!!!!
After 6 years in captivity, God’s voice spoke to Patrick in a dream one night, saying, “You are going home, Look! Your ship is ready!” The voice directed him to flee for his freedom the next morning. He awakened before daybreak, walked nearly 200 miles to the Irish seacoast, saw the ship, and negotiated his way on board. When Patrick’s returned to England, He trained as a Priest, and served as a Priest in a parish in England.
One night, at the age for 48 – Patrick experienced another dream that was to change his life again. An angel named Victor approached him with letters from his former captors in Ireland. As he read one of the letters, he imagined that he heard the voice of those people, and they cried out as one voice, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” When Patrick woke up the next morning, he interpreted the dream as a call from God to take the Gospel to the Celtic peoples of Ireland. He asked the bishops to be sent on this mission. So he was ordained as a bishop, and appointed to Ireland, as history’s first missionary bishop.
Can you imagine going back to the people that enslaved you and mistreated you – not to mention the people that you escaped from!!! (let me remind you no laws are in place to stop these viking people from killing him on the spot – remember it’s 450 A.D. :)
“Patrick’s mission to Ireland was to be such an unprecedented undertaking that it is impossible to understate it’s magnitude and significance, Why?
Because the Irish Celtic peoples were ‘barbarians’.”
Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of doing things the Catholic way and attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish, and used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. There is also the legend that he drove the snake from Ireland, although scientists are now certain that there never were snakes on the island; some scholars have argued that the snakes were symbolic of Druids.
However, He got into a bit of trouble with the Catholic Church for these things and consequently did not get very much help from them after arriving in Ireland and doing things his way. What was his way?
He went from tribal settlement to tribal settlement - first speaking with the king – then if the king excepted he would set up a small mission praying for sick people, putting on dramas and plays about the Gospel, and lovingly serving the people with the hope that in time they would come to know His God.
So for 28 years, Patrick lived and served among the very people who kidnapped him and enslaved him! Over time, the once “barbaric and pagan land” became a Christian Nation!
So we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every year on March 17th, which is believed to be the date of Patrick’s death in 493 AD.
So before you raise your pint of Guinness today remember St. Patrick and the St. Patrick’s of the world that brought the good news of Jesus Christ to you and me – and before you drink it all down, remember that you and I are called to do the same – to share the good news of the Gospel to all the world!!
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!! CHEERS EVERYONE!!