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.
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?
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.