The largest Irish holiday is actually the celebration of a British missionary. At only 16 years old, Patrick was taken to Ireland and sold as a slave. He tended sheep, and began to pray to pass the time. Patrick discovered hope, and would pray over a hundred prayers a day as he took care of the flocks.
After 6 years, he escaped captivity and traveled back to England with a desire to serve God with his life. Patrick studied under Bishop St. Germain, and God called him to return to Ireland with a vision to see spiritual freedom break forth in the land in which he had once been held captive.
His first stop was to his former master – to pay the price for his ransom. In exchange for the cruelty of slavery, he offered the blessing and freedom found in Christ. His knowledge of the language and culture of Ireland proved instrumental in his mission, and his love for the people and for God drove him from village to village for years. Patrick was a man of prayer, action, forgiveness and love.
In a time of national spiritual darkness, Patrick relentlessly shone the brightness of Christ’s love. He stands as an example for us today. We, the church, need to continue to shine God’s love brightly in dark places.
So this St. Patrick’s Day, as you pin on the clover and raise that pint, remember what it is we are celebrating and the sacrificial life to which we are called.
The following is a literal translation from the old Irish text of a prayer by St. Patrick:
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.