This week those of us who have some Irish in us and many many others who don’t celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. My Irish mother used to say, “ There are two kinds of people in this world those who are Irish…and those who wish they were.”
If you ask people who Saint Patrick was, you're likely to hear that he was an Irishman who chased the snakes out of Ireland.It may surprise you to learn that the real Saint Patrick was not actually Irish—yet his robust faith changed the Emerald Isle forever.
According to Wikipedia, Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class family in about A.D. 390. When Patrick was a teenager, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to an Irish king, who put him to work as a shepherd.
In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill describes the life Patrick lived. Cahill writes, "The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills."
Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, but he didn't really believe in God. But now—hungry, lonely, frightened, and bitterly cold—Patrick began seeking out a relationship with his heavenly Father. As he wrote in his Confessions, "I would pray constantly during the daylight hours" and "the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more."
Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, "Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look—your ship is ready."
What a startling command! If he obeyed, Patrick would become a fugitive slave, constantly in danger of capture and punishment. But he did obey—and God protected him. The young slave walked nearly two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There he boarded a waiting ship and traveled back to Britain and his family.
Patrick was a different person now, and eventually, Patrick recognized that God was calling him to enter a monastery. In time, he was ordained as a priest, then as a bishop.
Church history teaches that through Patrick, God converted thousands. As it is with many Christian holidays, Saint Patrick's Day has lost much of its original meaning. Instead of settling for parades, cardboard leprechauns, green beer and being pinched if you are not wearing any green, we ought to recover our Christian heritage and celebrate the great evangelist teaching our kids about this Christian hero.
Saint Patrick didn't chase the snakes out of Ireland as many believe. Instead, the Lord used him to bring into Ireland a true faith in the one true God—and to forever transform the Irish people.
Proud to be part Irish,
Your pastor and partner in ministry,