St. Patrick

If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.

A quote attributed to St. Patrick
387 – 461

Given my heritage is German and English, with maybe a touch of Scottish from many generations ago, I don’t pay much attention to St Patrick’s Day. Though I do enjoy the many beautiful Irish blessings.

The saint named Patrick who has given us the March 17th date to celebrate all things Irish, is popular the world over. He was born in Roman controlled Britain. Apparently Irish pirates captured him when he was a young teenager and took him back to Ireland as a slave to tend sheep. In that era Druids and pagans occupied Ireland.

Patrick remained in captivity in Ireland until he was twenty. Then he escaped after dreaming that God told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. He met some sailors there who took him back to Britain where he was reunited with his family.

Patrick trusted the God of the Christians and wrote about his faith in a memoir, The Confession. The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith and my soul, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.”

He studied for the priesthood, later becoming a bishop. He returned to Ireland, this time as a missionary rather than as a slave, in 433. He reportedly converted a well-known Druid chieftain as he preached his way all around Ireland. He is credited with converting thousands to the Christian faith and building churches across the country. He served in Ireland for 40 years.

His breastplate contains the words that sum up his deep faith and hope:

“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

In the States the death date of this beloved saint became a day to celebrate all things Irish in response to the initial prejudice and desperate conditions of the newly arrived Irish immigrants in the mid-1800’s. Approximately a million desperate Irish men, women and children poured into the United States to escape starvation back home. They left their beloved green hills of Ireland only to be packed into deplorable slum conditions in several East Coast cities.

They were assumed to be disloyal and therefore treated very badly. In response to this, American Irish organized politically. St. Patrick’s Day provided a platform to show their collective political and social strength.

Back home in Ireland the date was celebrated as a saint’s day centuries earlier. It became one of many days set aside to honor various saints. It was a religious day. In fact, the Irish closed pubs and refrained from drinking a toast to St. Patty until as late the 1970’s.

Meanwhile, back in the States the date marks an annual occasion to drink beer, dress in green, have parades, and decorate with shamrocks.

Why green? The most popular reason given is in honor of Ireland’s nickname as the Emerald Isle.  The Emerald Isle has also produced a large number of beautiful blessings. Such as:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Or this one:

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life’s passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!

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