Wineskins Archive

December 3, 2013

St. Patrick’s Day for Protestants (March 2013)

Filed under: — @ 2:45 pm and

By May Patterson

Despite my last name, I am not Irish or Catholic. Growing up as a Protestant, I never learned much about St. Patrick. The holiday in March meant lucky four-leaf clovers, wearing green or getting pinched and advertised specials at local bars. I don’t know all of St. Patrick’s beliefs or opinions, but his story is something worth knowing. It is an inspiring example of one person’s suffering that opened the way to many people’s blessing.

St. Patrick grew up near the southwest coast of England. Both his father and grandfather held titles in the Roman Catholic Church. Around 400 A.D., sixteen-year-old Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and later sold as a slave to a pagan priest in Ireland. For the next six years he was a shepherd, spending most of his time outside in miserable conditions, tending to the sheep. It was during these years of suffering and slavery that he turned to prayer intensely and came know the Lord.

St. Patrick escaped and went back to his family in England when he was 22 years old. He pursued a religious education and eventually become a bishop in the church. One night he dreamed about thousands of Irish children calling out for Christ and felt that he was being called to go back to Ireland to share the gospel. At that time the Irish people were pagan, worshipping forces of nature, stars and planets. Having no written language, they were a primitive culture heavily influenced by oral legends, pagan priests, superstition and idolatry.

God blessed St. Patrick in his mission to the Irish. He was innovative in his teaching, using common images to display Biblical truths, such as the shamrock and Celtic cross. He taught and baptized the wealthy and the poor, the royalty as well as the peasantry. Along with his successful mission, he suffered opposition, imprisonment and beatings at various times. St. Patrick’s mistreatment was used by God to reach thousands of people and he is greatly honored for his work to this day. He never left his mission with the Irish to go back to his family in England. St. Patrick died and was buried in Ireland. His missionary work has gone on to bless generations of Irish people, many who later carried their faith in Christ with them to America. So in a way, he has blessed us as well.

What can we learn from his life? St. Patrick was determined to go back and to bless the people that had mistreated him. Such attitudes are really hard to find today. It seems like everyone is so concerned about their rights being violated that they lose the capacity to bless and to serve. Instead of hatred over injustice growing in his heart toward the Irish, he had compassion on them and desired to help them. St. Patrick might be so rare in our day that he could make headlines: “The Slave That Brought Freedom.” He did something beautiful and unnatural to us all: he loved and served his enemies.

St. Patrick’s story bears likeness to another story, the greatest story. While St. Patrick gave the remainder of his life to his mission in a foreign land, Jesus gave all of His life and all that He had for us. The great Creator submitted to all the limitations of the creation, including pain and suffering. The perfect One became polluted with imperfection when He bore our sin. And He who was eternal life died, so that we might have eternal life. The believer’s life, St. Patrick’s life and even my life, should reflect the great story and proclaim it.

This year on this St. Patrick’s Day, I hope to celebrate it by thinking about something more worthwhile than leprechauns, shamrocks or parades. I want to think about how I can use suffering or mistreatment in the places where I am as a platform to bless other people. Sometimes mistreatment opens doors that would have never been opened otherwise. May everyone, Protestant or Catholic, be inspired to bless and serve their enemies and friends from the story of St. Patrick.

“It is right to spread abroad the name of God faithfully and without fear, so that even after my death I may leave something of value to the many thousands of my brothers and sisters – the children whom I baptized in the Lord.” ~ St. Patrick’s Confessio

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