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Posts Tagged ‘Saint Patrick’


Today, March 17th, is St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, the US, and probably Canada as well.  It seems to be a day about alcohol consumption mostly, as if we needed another day for that.  Not that I am against alcohol, I like my Guinness as much as the next person.  And, if Ireland wants to have everyone connect Saint Patrick with Ireland nationality and pride, that is alright too, and a reasonable connection.

However, Saint Patrick’s Day is to commemorate Patrick of Ireland, a bishop, a monk, and a Briton.  Yes, a Briton (but notice the spelling is different).  Patrick did more for the world than inspire a day to drink green beer (which doesn’t exist in the wild) or eat corned beef and cabbage (which I will probably do later).  As someone said much better than I but I forget his name, “Patrick’s monasteries kept the light of civilization on while it was going dark across the continent of Europe.”

Patrick was born to a Roman Briton clergyman along the west coast of what is now England, sometime during the 5th century (401 to 500 AD).  His family was Christian and Roman; his father Calpornius was a deacon, his grandfather a priest.  Yes, at this time, there was no actual Roman Catholic Church and the idea of celibate bishops and clergy hadn’t come into real existence, yet.

As a young boy, Patrick was captured by raiding Irish Celts and taken back to live as a slave in Ireland.  He grew through his teen years as a shepherd in Ireland, but escaped back to England as a young adult.  Because of his spiritual journey while a captive, he converted to Christianity and became a missionary back to Ireland after receiving a vision.  Patrick recounts a similar vision to the Apostle Paul’s Macedonian call in the Acts of the Apostles.  Paul was called in a vision or dream by a young Macedonian man to come over from Asia to witness in Macedonia.  Patrick recounts a similar vision to come to Ireland by a young Irishman calling out to him.

In Ireland, Patrick converted many people, ordained priests, and established monasteries.  Whether or not he banished snakes from Ireland is the stuff of legend, but the work of the monasteries in Ireland is heady stuff.  Irish monasteries continued gathering writings from across the known world, copying and storing them for later.  Regardless of the legendary history of Patrick, this young man helped to form a Christian society where there was none and helped maintain literacy and civilization at a time when it was becoming more difficult.

The fall of Rome brought severe problems to Europe without the stabilizing effect of a large government.  One can debate for a long time about the goodness or evil of Rome,but it did provide structure.  When that structure fell, chaos began to reign.  In this chaos, the church of Rome began to rise, yet its view of literacy and the arts and sciences was quite different from the former Rome.  At least a century after Rome left Briton, missionaries from Rome found a lively, well-established Christian society in Ireland.  There were differences in church practices in the Irish churches which led to later conflicts with Rome.

I am doing most of this from memory, with a few checks on Wikipedia.  If you really want to know more about Saint Patrick, check that site or any good book on early Christian history. So, don’t shoot me if I have made a mistake on some of Patrick’s history.

Patrick was no superhero, but he inspired many and taught many others.  Other Irish missionaries would go on to become great men of Christ’s kingdom as well.  Despite how anyone looks at the legends surrounding Patrick, no one can deny the effect he had upon the world by creating places where Christ, literacy, and faith were upheld and practiced.  Regardless of why anyone decides to celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Patrick, I still choose to remember the young missionary that answered his own “Macedonian Call” to go where he was led by the Spirit and did a great work for God.

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