I wish people would quit with the green clothes. I just don’t own anything I can wear on St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m not going to go out and buy a shirt just so I can wear it once a year. Green clashes with my eyes. March 17 has become a day to celebrate the Irish in all of us, well at least a day to party like the Irish, although I never really got the idea of green beer. Like people really needed another excuse to drink.
The sad part is that we have completely forgotten St. Patrick. His birth name was Maewyn, and he was born around AD 385 in Scotland. Near the age of 16 he was captured from his village by a group of Irish marauders and sold into slavery in Ireland. Before his capture, Patrick ignored the Christian faith, even though is grandfather was a priest and his family was Christian. But while living as a foreigner and slave in a pagan country, Patrick found Christ and held on to his faith, spending much of the six years in captivity in prayer as he cared for sheep. Six years after his capture, he escaped and returned to his home, but his faith had changed him.
Patrick decided to serve Jesus as a priest and evangelist. In his theological training, Patrick gained a passion for sharing Christ with pagan people, and felt a sense of call to return to Ireland, the land where he had been a slave. After several years of training, Patrick became a missionary and bishop to Ireland. Most of Ireland had never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ when Patrick arrived. Due to his time there, he understood the culture and customs, and was incredibly effective sharing Jesus among the Irish people. One strategy he used was to arrive at a village and develop a relationship with the clan chief. His former owner, Milchu, had been a chief, and Patrick understood the influence of these men in Irish culture. He would then train the chief to use their influence to lead the rest of the community to faith in Jesus. Milchu was one of the first chiefs Patrick led to faith in Jesus. Over the next thirty years, Patrick traveled all over Ireland, sharing Jesus, planting churches, starting schools, and establishing monastaries to train pastors. Patrick was arrested many times by those opposing his mission and message, and suffered other hardships, but none of this stopped him. Ireland eventually became known as one of the centers for the Christian faith throughout Europe, largely due to the passion and mission of Patrick.
Shamrocks are associated with Patrick because he used the symbol as an image of the Trinity to people who did not understand God. He would use a shamrock in sermons to explain how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. One folklore associated with Patrick is the driving of snakes off the island of Ireland. This tale is actually an image of the incredible ministry of preaching, that literally as he preached in Ireland, the snakes of false religion left.
If you enjoy green, have a ball today. In Chicago, they even die the Chicago river running through downtown green as part of the celebration. Give a cheer for your Irish friends, and pinch those who don’t wear something green (I’ll stay in my house to hide from you). While you do all this, give thanks for St. Patrick and the way God used him to reach those who held him as a slave.
One last thought, especially for parents. I actually am a Veggie Tales fan, and the episode titled Sumo of the Opera has a segment retelling the story of St. Patrick as only Veggie Tales can do. Great way to teach kids about St. Pattie’s day, or for college kids who still like their cartoons.