March 17th we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. For me that has mostly consisted of trying to remember to wear green- a color that is pretty scant in my wardrobe because I’m not a fan. Makes me look jaundiced. It occurred to me that this day is named after a patron saint and yet mostly what I associated with it are quite secular practices: drinking green beer, raucous parades, leprechauns and shamrocks. Ok, the shamrock has been associated with the Trinity, I’ll give you that.
I decided to do a little research to understand a little more behind St. Patrick. Of course we know him as the patron saint for Ireland and here is why. He was actually born in Brittain but he and his family were captured by some Irish pirates when he was 16 years old and served as a slave shepherd for 6 years in Ireland before escaping back to Brittain. During those 6 lonely years he apparently turned to God and became religious. After his freedom he went to France and studied religion. He was called to become a missionary and go back to guess where? Ireland! 16 years later he returned as a Catholic Bishop. He died on March 17th so why this date.
It is believed the he brought Christianity to Ireland but that is not so true. Christianity was already there in pockets although Ireland was mostly a pagan country. He did successfully organize and grow Christianity across the island and establish a strong Christian practice there. He did so by incorporating Christianity into the native practices instead of rejecting completely what was already there. (Good to note for those of trying to figure out how to connect a relevant Christian faith to a growing secular world around us.)
So if you in any way honor or acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day then consider the fact that he is remembered and venerated because he was a successful missionary and evangelist who figured out how to bring Christ to a new culture and group of people – the very ones who enslaved him as a teenager. Maybe it’s worth reflecting on today how we live our lives in a way that might possibly point others to who Jesus is. Maybe talking about St. Patrick today is a way to open the door to that conversation!
Grace and Peace,