I am Irish and I am a Christian. My great-grandfather lived near Belfast, Ireland and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1890′s. I also have my grandmother’s curly Irish hair, as does my oldest daughter (thank’s Grandma). I have to admit that until recently I only had a vague notion of who St. Patrick was. Now that I know, I have to say, I am embarrassed by the way St. Patrick’s day is recognized by the majority of our citizens.
I taught for 11 years in our church’s Christian School , the last 5 years I was also principal. When, out of my own curiosity, I researched St. Patrick, I decided to share the information with our students during our chapel time. I first asked the children, ranging in age from 3rd grade to 12th, what is the meaning of St. Patrick’s day? One 4th grader said, “it’s when you go out and party and drink green beer .” A wiser 5th grader said, “well, you only drink green beer if you’re Irish.” The high school students determined it was just a day to party if you were Irish.
When I asked ‘who is St. Patrick?’ the same 4th grader said he was a leprechaun. The high school students disagreed, saying he was somebody important, and one said he got rid of snakes in Ireland. Unfortunately if you ask most adults, this is also what they will say. The documented history of Patrick, from the 5th century is sketchy, but what written history there is documents a life of dedication, a devout faith, and a life of service for the Lord.
You can easily do a search on St. Patrick, but here are the simple facts agreed upon by most historians: Patrick was born in circa 387 a.d. in Roman Britain (Scotland). When Patrick was about 14 he was kidnapped from his home by Irish raiders. He was taken to Ireland, a land of pagans and Druids and put into a life of slavery working as a shepherd. It was here that he lived by his faith and trusted in God. It was a time of deprivation, suffering in the elements and being separated from family. About six years later he had a vision from the Lord leading him to escape to the coast and sail back to Britain. There he was reunited with family and later followed his faith and became a priest and eventually a bishop.
Patrick returned to the land that held him slave: (This part of his life puts me in reverent awe.) After another vision he returned to Ireland to bring the Gospel of Salvation to the ‘heathens.’ He was the man that brought Christianity to Ireland. Attempts were made on his life, but he had a fervor for the Lord that could not be quenched. He was humble, gentle and totally devoted to God, pious and denying himself luxuries of fine living that were offered him. He ministered in Ireland for nearly 40 years, thousands were converted including kings, queens and their families. He refused gifts and payment for services such as baptisms and ordinations, but lived in poverty and endured much suffering. He is credited with many miracles of healing (snakes? there were never really any in Ireland). It is also told he used a shamrock to help explain the Holy Trinity. He died on March 17, 461, in Saul, where he had planted the first Christian church in Ireland.
St. Patrick should be a shining, godly example to each of us. He loved God and showed God’s love to others. It is a sad thing that the life of a devout, Christian man is now associated with a day of parties and drinking. Each year since I’ve been enlightened, I try to retell his story, the real story to others who don’t know. And this year I wrote a blog. Now that you know, perhaps you can also tell his story, and plant a seed for the Lord and a remembrance of a holy life.