By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Past0r
You’ve got to be pretty important for a city like Chicago to dye its river green in your honor, to be celebrated by parades on a holiday named after you, and to have people throughout the world paying you tribute.
Your name would have to be Patricius, now known as Patrick – St. Patrick, to be exact.
Even the Chinese government made part of the Great Wall of China go green! Patrick must be powerful!
Even though almost no one today hints of anything spiritual behind this Irish Day, it makes sense that “Saint” Patrick’s Day was once a holy day – or, holiday – throughout Ireland. In fact, for over a thousand years, the Irish paid tribute to St. Patrick by going to church in the morning and having lively festivities in the afternoon. Something strongly spiritual had to be residing in community memory for even pubs to be closed on March 17! (Pubs have been flourishing, however, since the law was changed in 1970.)
Who was the real St. Patrick?
Patricius was born in the late 400s to wealthy parents. When he was sixteen, his small Roman Brit town was brutally raided, ransacked, and razed by Irish warriors who took this young prisoner to Ireland, where he was sold to a cruel war chief. Deprived of food and kept in isolation, Patrick was forced to “shepherd” pigs. Over six long, hard years, he called out to God and slowly grew strong in his faith. He seized an opportunity to escape, walking and running for 200 miles to the coast, from where he made his way back home.
But, in time, God sent St. Patrick back to Ireland as a missionary to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the land of his greatest suffering. Through Patrick, many people opened their hearts to believe in Christ and churches were established.
What can we learn from St. Patrick?
- “I would pray constantly during the daylight hours,” he recalled after his escape to freedom. “The love of God and the fear of him surrounded me more and more. And faith grew. And the spirit roused so that in one day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and at night only slightly less.”
- Live for Christ and proclaim him so that others in their “prison” can be liberated.It was because of a vision, like the one Paul had when he received his famous “Macedonian Call,” that Patrick knew that God was calling him to go to Ireland. He wrote, “I had a vision in my dreams of a man who seemed to come from Ireland. His name was Victoricius…’We appeal to you…come and walk among us.’ I was deeply moved in my heart…”
- Remember that no social or political evil can survive against the power of the Gospel. Paganism was strong and pervasive. “I dwell among gentiles,” he wrote, “in the midst of pagan barbarians, worshipers of idols, and of unclean things.” But, the Gospel overwhelmed evil as thousands of lives were transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever said after watching a movie, “The movie was alright, but the book was way better?” That’s the way it is with St. Patrick’s Day. Parties and parades that we celebrate in today’s world are as fireworks soon gone compared to the amazing history of God moving in the life of the real St. Patrick.