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St. Patrick

Having Irish roots, my family always celebrated St. Patrick’s day. Wearing green to represent our Irish heritage (as well as avoiding getting pinched) was always the order of the day. Special shamrock cookies usually were served to celebrate. Even though the holiday bears his name, I would venture to say that very few people know who St. Patrick really was.

St. Patrick was not Irish, but was born into a wealthy British family around the end of the 4th century. Raiders from Ireland plundered his home when he was only 16, and he was taken back with them to Ireland where he was forced into slavery. During his time in Ireland, Patrick believed that God spoke to him in a dream, telling him that it was time to escape and go home to Britain. After returning home, a second dream revealed to Patrick that he should return to Ireland as a missionary. After 15 years of theological study, he returned to his country of enslavement with the goal of spreading the gospel. This would have been at the peril of his own life. During his time as a missionary there, he was robbed, beaten, and put into captivity. He is quoted to have said: “If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they may despise me.”

There are many legends about St. Patrick, and it is very difficult (if not impossible) to tell which of them are true. These range from him driving snakes from Ireland to using a clover to describe the Trinity to raising people from the dead. At the very least, St. Patrick was successful in impacting a pagan society with the good news of Jesus Christ. While he was not likely the first missionary to Ireland, Patrick is generally credited with the country being converted to Christianity. His years of captivity in Ireland helped him be fluent in their language.

It is plausible that part of Patrick’s success was using part of the symbols of the Irish pagan worship in Christianity. He is said to have lit a bonfire in celebration of Easter and in defiance of the King’s degree that no fire should be lit before the one lit on the hill of Tara in celebration of the pagan feast of Ostara. As a result, the king was livid, and ordered Patrick and his followers arrested. However, Patrick and his men escaped. The picture above is of a statue of St. Patrick located on the hill of Tara. It is also said that Patrick created the Celtic cross, which is a combination of the traditional cross with a circle behind it. It is said that the circle could have represented the sun (that was an object of pagan worship) and the cross (representing Christ’s sacrifice) on the top of it, combining the two to show Christianity as the true source of light.

Patrick is said to have died on Mar. 17, 461. He left a legacy of faith on the nation of Ireland, and a great example for us to follow.

It is right to spread abroad the name of God faithfully and without fear, so that even after my death I may leave something of value to the many many thousands of my brothers and sisters — the children whom I baptized in the Lord. St. Patrick

3 comments to St. Patrick

  • Brayden Groff

    I find it very interesting how the holiday of St. Patrick’s day is celebrated for no apparent reason in America. I have rarely heard of anyone talking about these things and the ministry that St. Patrick led. It is always inspiring to hear of people returning to a place where they were once persecuted and attacked in order that they can share the gospel with them. “If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they may despise me.” I hope to live my life with such boldness and desire to share the gospel.

  • St. Patrick is a great example of fearlessly following the Lord’s calling in your life. I have often thought about how comfortable my life is at Cedarville. Truthfully, we are incredibly pampered during our four years here. Our needs are provided for. There is always an abundance of food and clean water, and the Christian community is the strongest I have ever experienced. It is very easy to get comfortable in the “cedarbubble” because, well, it is very comfortable. But what if God called me to China, or Iraq, or North Korea? Would I have the courage like St. Patrick to follow God’s calling even if it takes me to a place I would never choose to go myself. My prayer is that my answer to that calling would be yes.

  • Mat Taylor

    As Jaden said, the theme of comfort in America is something that Christians, and often myself tend to miss. A theme of this semester has been God showing me how easy my life is compared to those in other countries who have it much harder. Saint Patrick is a great reminder of suffering for Christ regardless of what comfort you have to leave behind. That was exactly what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:24-26 when he told his disciples to pick up their cross and follow him. My prayer is that in my life, I too will follow God’s calling on my life regardless of how much comfort I have to leave behind or suffering I have to endure.