As the middle of March draws near, shamrocks, leprechauns and the color green begin to fill the storefronts. Our friends and family are beginning to make plans to celebrate one of the world’s most popular Saints, the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. Now, most of us don’t know much about this guy except that he’s some Irish dude, who is a saint that loves green. Well, most of that isn’t actually true. He is a saint, but the fact is, he wasn’t Irish at all. He was a man who loved God, relied on faith and evangelized an entire country for Jesus Christ.
In the late 4th century, a young teenager from Roman Britain (at the time, this was Roman controlled England) was captured by Irish Pirates. “Irish Pirates!” That sounds awesome, but it wasn’t. They were raiders who pillaged towns to capture people and sell them into slavery. Patrick was one of these slaves.
In the desperation of captivity, Patrick began to seek God. He was raised in Christian home, but he never believed. According to his memoirs, Confessions, Patrick spent over six years in harsh captivity as a slave in Ireland. During this time he began to cry out to God and would eventually give his life to Christ.
Deeply wanting to get back home, one night Patrick had a dream. In that dream, a boat waited for him on the coast. He took this as a sign from God that he was to return to Britain. On faith, he escaped and went to the coast. There a boat was waiting, and he secretly stowed away. Legend has it that the boat took him to France and after some time, he was reunited with his family.
Removed from danger, Patrick did not forget about God, but faithfully devoted his life to him. He would spend the next 12 years studying and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, this is not where his story ends. After some time, Patrick had another dream.
In this dream, the babies of Ireland were crying out for Patrick to return and teach them about Jesus Christ. Once again, he was faced with placing his trust in God. The first time, God delivered him from captivity. However, this time, he must return to the island that enslaved him. On faith, Patrick returned.
Facing harsh anti-Jesus towns and cities, Patrick began to plant churches. He would move from place to place planting churches within the communities. However, unlike European churches, he cultivated self-sustaining churches that would impact the communities around them. I guess you could say Patrick supported a Pervasive Hope type vision. Because of his faithful efforts, the entire country of Ireland would come to know Christ.
Some of you may be asking, “what was the shamrock for?” Interestingly enough, Patrick used the three leaf clover, or shamrock, to explain the Trinity. He used it to show the people of Ireland how God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirt are all one, but distinctly different. You won’t hear that at a bar on Friday night.
As you can see, St. Patrick’s Day is really more than a time for Shamrock Shakes, Green Beer, and Irish music. It’s a day that recognizes a faithful servant of Christ. For this Saint Patrick’s day, celebrate the man who trusted God in his darkest moments. Remember the slave that followed God back to his kidnappers. Reflect on the faith of a man that took the Gospel into an entire country. Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!