I'm part Irish, or Scot-Irish more accurately, and I enjoy St. Patrick's Day. It's fun eating corn-beef and cabbage or Irish stew. Or drinking an Irish stout, or at least a Shamrock Shake. Today people wear green. I got a chance to play Irish music from bands like Flogging Molly, Snow Patrol and U2. It's a fun day to celebrate, or exaggerate, being Irish.
That all being said, I think we've really missed an opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick on St. Patrick's Day. I think the saint himself would wonder what getting drunk, pinching folks not wearing green and trying to River Dance has to do with his life.
With that in mind let me tell you a little bit about St. Patrick.
Patrick was the son of a wealthy Welshman. When he was 16 he was kidnapped by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland to be a slave. While being held in slavery he took care of sheep on the emerald island of Ireland. While a slave Patrick was left alone with the sheep and his prayers; it was during this time that he made a true conversion to Christianity. Six years into his slavery he's said to have had a vision from God. The vision led him away from his master and to a port where he was able to board a ship back to Britain.
Once back in his homeland he had another vision that featured an Irishman begging him to come back to Ireland with the Gospel. So, Patrick, now a man in his early 20's, returned to Ireland. He returned to bring Good News to the very people that had wrongfully enslaved him.
Patrick had immense success in his ministry. Using things like the shamrock to explain the mystery of the 3-in-1 Holy Trinity he taught the Gospel to the Irish. Patrick wrote that he baptized thousands of people on the island. Converts became priests and nuns in large numbers.
Patrick also is said to have faced stiff opposition. He was beaten, robbed and put in prison. Yet, he continued to preach to the people who had enslaved him when he was a teenager.
Today, Ireland is not a pagan nation. Today, Ireland is a Catholic country and St. Patrick's courageous love is a big reason why. Patrick came back to the people who enslaved him with a message of love and redemption. He changed the course of history because he chose to act like Jesus and the apostles rather than acting out the revenge he deserved to get.
What an awesome story!
St. Patrick's Day is a fun holiday featuring Irish culture and everything green; but don't forget St. Patrick on St. Patrick's Day. More importantly, don't forget the God that enabled St. Patrick to bring love when he received evil and the freedom of the Gospel when he was given the chains of slavery.
Love courageously. Share the Gospel boldly. Remember the real reason for St. Patrick's Day today.