Saint Patrick: Patron Saint of Nasty Green Beer?

Contrary to popular belief, Saint Patrick’s Day wasn’t founded on creepy leprechauns, cheesy parades, and nasty green beer. The day also originally had nothing to do with getting so incomprehensibly slobber-knocked that even Irish cuisine begins to taste good (Pig’s Trotters? Black Pudding?!). Saint Patrick’s Day was actually founded on a real Christian missionary who wasn’t even Irish.

Saint Patrick's Day CatWith a healthy dose of Scots-Irish blood running through my veins, I have a vested interest in the day and the Saint it’s supposed to celebrate (March 17th).

Though much of the life of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, has been mythologized, there are a couple solid historical sources that remain about the fifth century saint.

Saint Patrick wasn’t really a “Snake Whisperer”

At the ripe young age of sixteen, Patrick was abducted by Irish raiders from his home of Britain and sold as a slave.  After six years of subjection as a slave herdsmen the young Patrick escaped and returned to the Motherland. But he returned to his aristocratic family a changed man. In his Irish enslavement he had found freedom in the renewed faith of his childhood Christianity. And this calling of God wouldn’t keep him away from the hilly Irish countryside for long.

One passage in his work Confessio, St. Patrick’s spiritual autobiography, tells of a dream after his return to Britain, in which he was delivered a letter headed “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, he seemed to hear a certain company of Irish beseeching him to walk once more among them.

“Deeply moved,” he wrote, “I could read no more.”

Saint Patrick: A Weak And Powerful Witness

Being relatively uneducated did not stop him from answering the call and after a short study stint he was ordained by Saint Germanus the Bishop Auxerre. Once he found himself on Irish shores he traveled extensively, zealously preached the gospel, and baptized peasants and political leaders into the Kingdom.

Preaching the gospel in a country steeped in pagan and Druid religion, Patrick was in constant endangerment of martyrdom with local kings, lawgivers and commoners. On top of this, Ecclesiastical powers back in Britain doubted his motives and charged him with seeking ministry “office for the sake of office.”  Despite this, he would many times gain favor with local leaders by bearing gifts, and always refusing gifts in return. For roughly 40 years of traveling poverty he preached incessantly to every Irish ear that would hear him, to the point Catholic history credits St. Patrick with “converting all of Ireland.”

Despite these ministry successes he was a humble man who died in relative obscurity. His autobiography, Confessio, is considered by many to be the most honest soul bearing account of any religious diarist, save St. Augustine. Patrician scholar, D.A. Binchy, has said, “The moral and spiritual greatness of the man shines through every stumbling sentence of his rustic’ Latin.”

So the next time you’re compelled to wear green, eat corn beef and cabbage, or watch the cult classic “The Leprechaun”, stop and think about this humble bold saint.

Are you relatively uneducated?

Do you have a tragic and abusive past?

Does your speaking or writing have a “stumbling” quality about it?

Do those in high places doubt your calling?

So what.

God wants to turn the eternal destinies of nations and He desires do it with the most humble broken means at His expense. When there is nothing to boast of human ingenuity and power, that is how God will get the most glory.

“God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” (1 Cor 1:27)

He sovereignly did it in Saint Patrick’s life.

He can do it in ours.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

5 thoughts on “Saint Patrick: Patron Saint of Nasty Green Beer?”

  1. St. Patrick (370AD) is a pre-schism (1054 AD) Saint, thus he is venerated in both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

    Lorica of Saint Patrick
    I arise today
    Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
    Through a belief in the Threeness,
    Through confession of the Oneness
    Of the Creator of creation.

    I arise today
    Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
    Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
    Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
    Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

    I arise today
    Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
    In obedience of angels,
    In service of archangels,
    In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
    In the prayers of patriarchs,
    In preachings of the apostles,
    In faiths of confessors,
    In innocence of virgins,
    In deeds of righteous men.

    I arise today
    Through the strength of heaven;
    Light of the sun,
    Splendor of fire,
    Speed of lightning,
    Swiftness of the wind,
    Depth of the sea,
    Stability of the earth,
    Firmness of the rock.

    I arise today
    Through God’s strength to pilot me;
    God’s might to uphold me,
    God’s wisdom to guide me,
    God’s eye to look before me,
    God’s ear to hear me,
    God’s word to speak for me,
    God’s hand to guard me,
    God’s way to lie before me,
    God’s shield to protect me,
    God’s hosts to save me
    From snares of the devil,
    From temptations of vices,
    From every one who desires me ill,
    Afar and anear,
    Alone or in a mulitude.

    I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
    Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
    Against incantations of false prophets,
    Against black laws of pagandom,
    Against false laws of heretics,
    Against craft of idolatry,
    Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
    Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
    Christ shield me today
    Against poison, against burning,
    Against drowning, against wounding,
    So that reward may come to me in abundance.

    Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
    Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
    Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
    Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
    Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
    Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
    Christ in the eye that sees me,
    Christ in the ear that hears me.

    I arise today
    Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
    Through a belief in the Threeness,
    Through a confession of the Oneness
    Of the Creator of creation

    St. Patrick (ca. 377)

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