Last March I had the unique privilege of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland. This “bucket list” trip was special and memorable for many reasons. I was able to spend time following the Saint Patrick trail and learn more about the man and missionary called Patrick. I discovered much information and inspiration at the new Saint Patrick Center, in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, at the only museum in the world dedicated to the history and story of Saint Patrick: saintpatrickcentre.com.
During my travels I visited a number of historic sites including Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, where it is said Patrick baptized converts in a well in A.D. 450, and also Saul Church, Downpatrick, where Saint Patrick built the first Christian Church in Ireland in A.D. 432.
This post has become somewhat of an annual tradition for me as I write about the story behind the celebration . . . the man called Patrick.
Kidnapped into slavery at age 16 and taken from his home in England to the land of savages in Ireland, Patrick had visions from God that gave him strength and led to his escape. So inspired and moved by God, once home in England he felt compelled to return as a missionary to preach the gospel in a land that had never heard the message of Christ before. The story continues and his writings are full of profound insights, theology, prayers, and confessions that challenge and inspire me deeply. I have included a portion of a hymn written by, or least attributed to, Patrick from around 430 A.D.
It should be noted that Patrick was not recognized as a “saint” until decades later, did not drive snakes out since there were none in Ireland at the time, did not use the three-leaf clover to describe the Trinity, and was basically kicked out of the priesthood for failure to submit to authority. He was, however, a great contextual theologian and missionary who reached an entire people for the Kingdom of God!
We have much to learn and celebrate from the rich and diverse history of our faith. The traditions of past and present, while different from our own, provide a wonderful opportunity for our faith to increase. This national “holiday” of sorts, Saint Patrick’s Day, has given me an opportunity to learn to appreciate what God has been doing through servants like Patrick through- out the centuries. Of course, we can also expand our food and spirits horizons at our local Irish pub!
While last year I was in Dublin for the festivities, I will be in NYC, which may even have more revelers than the famed Irish city itself. As I join in the cultural festivities today and in the years to come, I will always be reminded of my time in Patrick’s land.
So, as you listen to U2, thee Cranberries or DropKick Murphies (depending on your style) and raise a pint of Guinness, thank God for examples like Patrick, and may we all follow the example of a life of obedience, sacrifice, servant-hood, faith, prayer, and mission.
Prayer of Saint Patrick
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.