I just asked my 10 year-old, “Who was Saint Patrick?”
Her reply? “Umm…” Shuffling awkwardly, eyes darting for an answer.
“Ok,” I followed up, “why do we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?”
“Umm… because… he was the first Irish man to come to America??”
Most people have no idea why Patrick’s life was worth celebrating. For the record, he wasn’t the Lucky Charms leprechaun. He was a passionate priest who revolutionized the spiritual landscape of a pagan land.
Did you know…?
- Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was a Briton from an aristocratic family in NE England.
- He was was abducted and enslaved in Ireland by the Celts, a brutal tribal people.
- After 6 years of enslavement he was able to make a daring escape aboard a boat sailing back to England.
- At age 48, God called him back to Ireland to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the pagan tribes who had enslaved him.
- Patrick and his band of missionaries set up Christian communities that welcomed pagans, loved them, included them.
- They spoke the same Gospel they always had, but transformed their methods to open the eyes of a pagan culture.
- Under his ministry, 700 churches were planted, 1,000 priests were ordained, and 30-40 of Ireland’s 150 pagan tribes became substantially Christian.
- He also became the first public person to speak out against slavery, which effectively ended in Ireland in his lifetime.
The Roman church considered the Celts barbarians, impossible to evangelize. Patrick’s knowledge of their culture, gained by his years in slavery, told him otherwise. The pain of slavery and separation from home, family and life as he knew it was the one thing that God ended up using to turn the world upside down.
Saint Patrick’s life wasn’t about green beer, shamrocks or driving snakes out of Ireland. It was about bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to others by living out Christianity among them. This is the kind of true story that changes the world. This is the kind of story I want to live. This is worth celebrating.
You can read all about Saint Patrick, his heart and his life in George Hunter’s “The Celtic Way of Evangelism“. It’s a fantastic read.
I’ll allow this prayer of Saint Patrick summarize the focus of His life:
…Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.