Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Most of the time, when people think of March 17, they think about leprechauns, pots of gold, and wearing green to avoid getting pinched. But the origins of this holiday are much more spiritual in nature. And I researched those origins, I found myself awed by the ministry of the man who became a legend.
At the end of the 4th century, Maewyn Succat was born to Calpurnius, a Roman-British army officer. Maewyn’s name was Romanized to Patricius, but he chose to go by Patrick. He grew up in Britain, but while he was still a child, he was kidnapped along with many other boys by a band of pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. He spent 6 years there, most of the time imprisoned. Eventually he escaped and returned to Britain then moved on to France where he joined a monastery and trained for 12 years. He advanced in the order and became a bishop. Then, one night he dreamed of the Irish people calling him back to their land to tell them about God.
This was the land of his enemy, the people who had stolen his childhood, who had put him in prison and made him a slave. Yet Patrick believed God had called him to go, so he went. For 20 years, he traveled throughout Ireland, converting pagans to Christianity, establishing monasteries, schools, and churches. He angered the Celtic Druids (pagan priests) and was often arrested and persecuted, but each time he escaped, he returned to his mission of sharing the gospel message with the people of Ireland and baptizing them.
Patrick was a man who took Jesus’s teaching seriously and lived it out in dramatic fashion.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
He died on March 17, 461.
One of the legends surrounding St. Patrick’s ministry centers on the shamrock. It is said that he used this three-leafed clover to demonstrate the idea of the Trinity as he preached to the people. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three parts yet one.
So as you go through your day today, instead of tiny men in green suits dancing at the end of a rainbow, think of the man who inspired the holiday with his obedience to the Lord’s charge to love his enemies and to share the good news with all who would listen. Perhaps he will inspire you to do the same in your own small sphere of influence.