People are really into St. Patrick. Many wonders can be attributed to his celebration:
- Every year the water in the kids pool at our YMCA turns green in his honor.
- On his night the Irish bar across from my house draws an amazingly large attendance, no matter how cold it is.
- But his greatest modern miracle: St. Patrick turns all of America Irish for one day.
Let’s be clear. The real St. Patrick did nothing of the kind.
Actually, the real St. Patrick is way more interesting. I’m a huge fan of the real St. Patrick. Here are my two favorite things about him.
First, he lived it. I mean, he lived the hard parts of being a Christian. Even that pesky “love your enemies” bit.
When Patrick was a kid he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. That kind of thing makes a deep impression. Nothing could more clearly mark the Irish as his enemies.
If someone kidnapped me and made me a slave, I don’t think I’d get over it soon.
But then, after Patrick escaped and found his way back home to England (a great story with lots of miracles — you can read it on the CCEL site) he had a great idea: how about heading back to Ireland — as a missionary!
That’s right. Patrick went back to the people who harmed him and spent his life showing them the love of Christ.
Second, he knew the real faith. As I put it on this blog, he was fluent in “Christian.”
It is easy to settle for a simplistic “me and Jesus” sort of faith. But when you look at what Patrick wrote, and prayed, and sang, it is easy to see he embraced the rich and complex aspects as well. Look at a couple of lines from the famous poem attributed to him, “The Breastplate of St. Patrick”:
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.
Even if the prayer is from a couple of centuries after St. Patrick, it represents the faith he planted — orthodox Trinitarian Christianity, rooted in the person and work of Jesus.
That’s real Celtic Christianity, by the way — not some modernized watered down new age-y spirituality.
So today in honor of St. Patrick, whether you tip back a green beer or not, honor Ireland’s patron by loving your enemies and praising the Trinity.
What’s your favorite story about St. Patrick?
How do you celebrate him?
I’d love to send you a free copy of my new eBook on quirky and surprising saints. It’s called Role Models for Discipleship.
Click the button and I’ll send it along.
Check out my favorite YouTube on Saint Patrick!