St. Patrick's day is today, and in every store we see clover/shamrocks, little Irish guys, and pots of gold. But did you know that St. Patrick's day as we know it today actually resembles nothing of the real St. Patrick?
According to Philip Freeman, St. Patrick grew up in Britain, a spoiled, arrogant teenager. According to St. Patrick's own writings, when he was sixteen years old, he was captured by the Irish and taken as a slave.
For the next six years, he would herd sheep, and pray. While at home he ignored the warnings from his church, in his captivity and suffering, he turned to the God he had been trying to ignore.
As he prayed and sought the Lord, He began to show him that he would be going home soon, and showed him the plan of escape.
In his own words, this is the account of his escape, [kindly translated for us by Ludwig Bieler]:
"I heard a voice saying to me: `See, your ship is ready.’ And it was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles, and I had never been there, nor did I know a living soul there; and then I took to flight, and I left the man with whom I had stayed for six years. And I went in the strength of God who directed my way to my good, and I feared nothing until I came to that ship. And the day that I arrived the ship was set afloat, and I said that I was able to pay for my passage with them. But the captain was not pleased, and with indignation he answered harshly: `It is of no use for you to ask us to go along with us.’ And when I heard this, I left them in order to return to the hut where I was staying. And as I went, I began to pray; and before I had ended my prayer, I heard one of them shouting behind me, ‘Come, hurry, we shall take you on in good faith; make friends with us in whatever way you like.’"
After arriving safely home, his family was certain he was home to stay. After all, who would give up the ease and comfort of a wealthy life? But St. Patrick thought otherwise, and headed back to, of all places, Ireland. Ireland - the country of his enslavement!
Did he have a brilliant plan of revenge? Was he coming back to pursue his captors?
He says, "I testify in truth and in joy of heart before God and His holy angels that I never had any reason except the Gospel and its promises why I should ever return to the people from whom once before I barely escaped."
He came back to show them God's love, and to share the good news.
Though he faced many threats, he continued showing love and leading many to Christ, including his former captor. Because he knew how Ireland's authority structure worked, he was able to make great impact for the Lord.
Honestly, in light of the true St. Patrick, I believe if he came back today, he would be saddened by how he is remembered. So, how can we celebrate this holiday in a new way? While I would still advise that you wear green, , here are three suggestions I would like to share with you:
1. Spend Time in Prayer
St. Patrick's life was overflowing with prayer. Throughout his captivity, he survived by his constant prayer - praying almost all day and night.
Wouldn't it be amazing if believers around the United States (and the world ultimately) spent St. Patrick's day in prayer? Lifting up our leaders, praying for our enemies, seeking God for the hearts of our nation, asking for help for our persecuted brethren... there are so many needs, and on a day known for darkness, little lights shining forth can make a difference.
2. Choose to Forgive
St. Patrick had amazing love for the people of Ireland. While most of us would have hoped to come back for revenge, St. Patrick instead chose to come back in love and forgiveness.
St. Patrick's Day is a good opportunity for us to check our hearts and see what is lurking in the corners - what sins are we harboring, what bitterness are we allowing to separate us from God's best, are we holding any grudges?
Remembering the story of St. Patrick, and ultimately the story of Jesus Christ, inspires us to forgive, to let go, to move on.
3. Show God's love to at Least One Person
St. Patrick showed incredible love in the face of hardship, amidst threats of kidnapping and torture, yet he continued to show that love. While many of us do not face the difficulties he faced in showing love, sometimes we are hesitant to make ourselves vulnerable by love.
In our culture today, "love" is used for so many things - "I love pizza", "I love my dog", "I love my family." The kind of love I am referring to is not "easy love." Rather, I am talking about the love that gives without expecting anything in return, love even where it isn't comfortable.
Some ideas might be sending an email to a friend who is hurting, visiting an Assisted living to say hello and spread some cheer, helping a sick family member, or making a plate of cookies to share with someone who could use a smile.
If Christians choose to spend St. Patrick's Day in prayer, extending forgiveness, and showing love, I think we will see God work in some amazing ways.
*Special thanks to these websites for their helpful information:
Hi! My name is Hannah, and I enjoy playing piano, writing, hanging out with my family, and spending time with my Lord and Savior. Hope you are blessed!