I have a fresh interest in St. Patrick’s Day this year. Since last March 17th I discovered that I’m sort of Irish!
For Christmas, Wayne gave me a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. It was something I’d been wanting to do. Basically, the test confirmed what I suspected – I’m basically a mutt, a pound puppy. But I was surprised by the top percentage. Thirty-one percent of me is Irish!
Perhaps, like me, you’ve considered St Patrick’s Day a fun, but frivolous observance – a day to wear green clothes, eat green food, and listen to Celtic music. However, there’s actually good reason to stop and consider St. Patrick.
A Really Brief History of St. Patrick
Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was born about 387 AD in Scotland. Although his grandfather was a priest and his father was a deacon, young Patrick did not embrace the family faith. Then at the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland and forced into servitude.
During his years as a slave, Patrick spent large amounts of time alone caring for the herds of his master. This life of slavery and solitude fostered a deep prayer life and Patrick came to true faith in Christ. In “The Confession of St. Patrick,” Patrick acknowledges that God used his time of trial to turn heart toward Him.
After six years of slavery in Ireland, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain where he continued his religious study. But it wasn’t long before a vision of a lost Ireland burdened him with the need to return with the Gospel. God was sending Patrick to a people that the church had decided was too lost to be reached – the pagans of Ireland were just too different.
In his mid-40’s – after becoming a bishop of the church – Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary. He spent 30 years converting thousands of Irish “pagans” to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Patrick died on March 17th, 461 AD at the first church he built in Ireland.
Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and although never officially canonized, early Christians consider him a “saint in heaven.”
3 Reasons I Care About St Patrick’s Day
- I’m Irish – Well, at least I’m more Irish than anything else and it’s the closest I will ever get to an ethnic holiday. So humor me.
- Patrick faithfully followed Christ no matter the cost – Loyalty to Christ and concern for the eternal state of his enemies led Patrick back to Ireland. He willingly and obediently faced danger to take the Gospel to Ireland. He constantly fought the temptation to leave the mission field and return home. Patrick even shared the Gospel with his old master. That’s bold faith!
- Patrick sets the example for evangelism – Patrick wisely separated the Gospel from the Roman culture, something the Catholic Church could not or would not do. Just as many Jewish Christians in the first century wrongly believed Gentiles had to first become Jews before they could become Christians, the church of the 5th century thought the “pagans” had to first become “civilized” before they could come to Jesus. But, Patrick shared the Gospel within the Celtic culture. He did not try to change their culture before he offered the Gospel. His method of evangelism freed him to embrace the areas of their culture that did not break God’s laws of righteousness. Like the apostle Paul, Patrick became “all things to all people so that by all possible means” he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22). In this way, Patrick showed respect for the Irish and was able to build bridges and relationships that fostered opportunities to share the Gospel. By the way, Patrick used the 3-leaved shamrock to help explain the concept of the Trinity!
St. Patrick’s Day is not just a fun day of all things Irish. For those “in the know,” remembering St. Patrick encourages us to faithfully follow Christ no matter where He leads and to boldly share the Gospel of life with those in our path, no matter how different from us they may be.
How do you plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Some helpful articles for more information on St. Patrick: