Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Do to the fact that Saint Patrick is both my dad and brother's patron saint and the fact that we are an extremely Irish family, this day is a pretty big deal here. I know that, for those over 21, St. Pat's day is a fun time to drink green beer with family and friends, and that, for those under 21, it's a fun day to hang out with said green-beer-drinking family and drink green Sprite. However, I feel like the true story of Saint Patrick gets lost in the hub-bub of the secular holiday. Saint Patrick's day is about more than drunk Leprechauns, in fact, in my opinion, it isn't about Leprechauns at all. Saint Patrick's day is a day to remember and celebrate the strength, courage, and heroism of an extraordinary soul who, with the help of God, turned a lost country toward Heaven.
Something many people find surprising is that Saint Patrick actually wasn't even Irish. He was a wealthy Roman, born in Scotland, and captured by a raiding party at the fourteen. He was enslaved in Ireland, and forced to tend and herd sheep in a land of Druidism and Paganism. While enslaved, he learned the language and ways of the Irish people. He spent much time in prayer, turning to God throughout the many hardships he faced while in captivity. When he was about twenty years old, God spoke to him in a dream and told him to journey to the coast of Ireland where he would find sailors waiting to take him home.
Although Patrick returned home and reunited with his family, he still wasn't peaceful. One night, he had a dream in which the Irish people were reaching out to him and calling "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more." Patrick heard God's call not only to the priesthood, but also understood that God meant for him to return to the land of his captivity and care for the souls of his captors.
We have many legends about what Patrick did once he returned to Ireland. We know that he used a shamrock to teach about the blessed trinity. He is the reason that shamrocks are such a Irish symbol today. There is also a story in which, in an attempt to discredit Patrick, druid priests released snakes in Ireland and then claimed that the creatures were in answer to their prayers. Patrick allegedly banished the serpents from Ireland where they were never seen again. We don't have many solid facts about exactly what Patrick did in Ireland, but we know that he converted almost the entire island to Christianity.
Because of Saint Patrick, my Irish ancestors knew and loved God. The Irish people have always been a people of strength and have endured so much as a nation. Saint Patrick gave them the tools they needed to endure these things. But more than just this, I feel that Saint Patrick is a model of what all Christians should be like in this lost and pagan world. Our culture now is a dark and pagan one, much like that of the Irish before Patrick's coming. We need to respond to the call of those lost and "Walk among [them] once more," bringing Christ's light to the world.
So, as you drink your green beer (or in most of our cases, Sprite), try not to forget altogether the true spirit of Saint Patrick and what an honor it truly is to be Irish. Happy Saint Pat's day everybody. May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always 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.(An Old Irish Blessing)