Today, more than 1500 years after his death, Patrick is remembered as the Patron Saint of Ireland. Tradition states that he died on March 17, 461 AD. A couple of years ago I did an informal poll at my local coffee shop to find out what they knew about St. Patrick. Let’s put it this way, for all the “wearin’ O’ the Green” there is little “knowin’ O’ the Guy.” I heard that he led all the moles out of Ireland, a couple talked to me about the snakes he led out of Ireland. Most of the rest of the information I heard, and that which is widely believed about him is just a bunch of “blarney”. In fact, the most widely held belief about him is that he saved Ireland from a plague of snakes by leading them all away. No evidence is found to support this, nor is there any evidence that St. Patrick invented green beer.
“Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” This is one of the quotes long attributed to St. Patrick and from what little I know of his life and ministry, it fits. He was a man of trust, some considered it pure foolishness in his day. He was born in England, captured at the age of 16 by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. After six years, he escaped and returned to England where he entered the church and became a priest. He later shared with many about his vision of a angel calling him to return to Ireland to preach the Gospel to everyone.
“…who am I, Lord? or, rather, what is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine quality, so that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt and magnify your name in whatever place I should be, and not only in good fortune, but even in affliction? So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad, I should accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed to me that I might trust in him, implicitly and forever,…” Confessions of St. Patrick
It takes trust to return to the people who once held you prisoner, it takes trust to live a life of confidence that you are able to give thanks in any circumstance. While I have never met the good St. Patrick, I believe that he lived the word of St. Paul out loud in his life and mission.
11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Romans 10:11-17 (NIV)
What an honor to be remembered 1500 years after your death as a man of deep conviction and trust in the Christ that lived in and all around him. Contrary to popular tradition, St. Patrick did not bring Christianity to Ireland, but there is little doubt that he impacted the church of Ireland and expanded the Kingdom of Christ.
I hope that I am remembered 1500 years after I die as one who preached the Gospel to those in need. If they want to add that I saved the people of Minnesota by leading the wild badgers back to Wisconsin, so be it.