A Guide to Knowing Your Saints: St Patrick

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Dear Friends and Family,

Today many people will be putting on massive amounts of green, buying Guinness, or some other beer that is or has been made to look green, will put on some Flogging Molly, the Dubliners, the Irish Rovers, or the Dropkick Murpheys and will get completely hammered celebrating what they’ve come to call St Paddy’s Day, the day for celebrating all things “Irish”. There are so many problems with this.

I could give you a detailed (or perhaps rather vague) history of who St Patrick was (below you’ll see a video giving you some background on our understanding of Patrick today). Instead I just want to focus on a two key aspects.

Patrick was not Irish

We forget this all the time, but Patrick was born and raised in Britain some time in the fifth century. He may have been part Roman and part Briton, but he was certainly not at all Irish. I’m not saying that St Patrick’s day should not include a celebration of positive aspects of Irish culture, but it isn’t an occasion to wear so much green (or orange if you’re supporting the Northern Irish) it’s offensive and to dwell purely on Irish stereotypes. It ought to be a day of reflection on how one man, even if only in myth, could have such an impact on an island as to have his death remembered.

Patrick was a Christian

Somewhere along the line this has been forgotten. Patrick was a monk who, earlier in life, had been taken as a slave to Ireland and later in life returned as a priest and monk to spread the news of Jesus Christ. He potentially combatted heretical Christians and antagonistic pagans to show them that the God of Jesus Christ is the true God and that Christ is his Son and the Spirit is his Spirit; that each is a person and yet is still one God. Today ought to be a celebration of a life of devotion to Jesus Christ. Yes, let’s celebrate (this should be no solemn affair), but remember what it is we are celebrating: the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ.

I recommend you check out my friend Peter’s post from last year: St. Patrick’s Day.

Let me leave with a video on St Patrick from Thomas O’Loughlin and a passage from Patrick’s Confession.

From his Confession Part II, 16 on his learning to pray:

But after I had come to Ireland,
it was then that I was made to shepherd the flocks day after day,
and, as I did so, I would pray all the time, right through the day.
More and more the love of God and fear of him grew strong within me,
and as my faith grew, so the Spirit became more and more active,
so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers,
and at night only slightly less.
Although I might be staying in a forest or out on a mountainside,
it would be the same;
even before dawn broke, I would be aroused to pray.
In snow, in frost, in rain,
I would hardly notice any discomfort,
and I was never slack but always full of energy.
It is clear to me now, that this was due to the fervor of the Spirit within me.

May we all find ourselves so filled with the fervor of the Spirit.

Yours,
David

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