More to St. Patrick's Day (like Orange over Green)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Gen. 50:20, ESV).
With today being St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I might share much of the truth (while separating the myths) of this missionary to Ireland. To our discredit, St. Patrick’s Day has become a day associated with wearing the “green,” displaying shamrocks, drinking green beer, and with turning the Chicago River green. However, just as history has proven the “historical” person of Jesus of Nazareth, we also can identify Patrick of Ireland.
He lived in the 5th century being born in Britain. He was of a noble birthright. His first trip to Ireland actually was involuntarily, as a slave, who was taken from his family’s home by Irish raiders at the age of 16. He then spent six years there as a herdsman and by living sparsely (in which he turned to his faith for comfort). He would dream that a ship was leaving the isle to return to Britain and that he would find safe passage after running from his master’s lodge in order to escape. That dream encouraged him to attempt an escape, and he found a ship waiting for him. Once home (after suffering a brief captivity), he was then reunited with his family.
Patrick later traveled to France for monastic training before feeling that he needed to return to Ireland once more – this time to share the gospel. In his Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, he tells of a dream in which he heard from certain Irish individuals asking him to walk once more among them. He was reluctant for a long time to respond to this invitation due to his poor education. He also doubted his ability or his fitness for the task. Yet, once he was in Ireland, his reluctance vanished. God used Patrick to lead many individuals into the church. In fact, he journeyed both far and wide to convert and to baptize the Irish.
Whether St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland or not is considered a myth. Yet, the fact remains that he was used mightily by God to bring a nation into his presence. Many missionaries and ministers came from Ireland across the continent of Europe, thus transforming villages and nations with the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the faith and ministry of Patrick that led a generation of witnesses to go into all of the world.
The national flower of Ireland is the shamrock, a three-leafed green plant with one stalk. Legend tells of St. Patrick’s use of this flower to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, three persons in one God, to an unbeliever. On St. Patrick’s Day many school children will be instructed to wear green, the color of the shamrock, or else they might get pinched. This, too, is another myth of the legend.
Something I learned after my parents returned from a trip to Ireland several years ago is that the Irish Catholics wear “green” on March 17, while the Irish protestants wear “orange” on this day signifying the recognition of St. Patrick’s Day. All of these years, I have worn the wrong color out of ignorance?
So, as many celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today, may we as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ be thankful that Patrick returned to Ireland to evangelize the people that had stolen away his youth in bondage and slavery. He was able to turn the other cheek. He was like Christ in that he showed compassion and love towards his enemies and brought many into the kingdom of God.
St. Patrick’s Prayer
May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Host of God guard us
Against the snares of the evil ones,
Against temptations of the world.
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Salvation, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and evermore. Amen.
Rev. James Conley
Western Slope Ministry & Mission Facilitator
Pastor, First Baptist Church of Delta, Colo.
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains