Today is St. Patrick's Day, which is not a day for drinking and wearing green. In Ireland, to which I have never been but desperately wish to go,
The Tale of St. Patrick1
Patrick was born a Briton (one of the Celtic tribes of what is now England) in the fifth century A.D. (not C.E.!) At this time, Christianized Rome had captured England and most of the Britons had converted to Christianity. Indeed, Patrick's grandfather was a priest. However, Patrick wanted no part of it.
When he was sixteen, he was kidnapped by Celtic Pirates and enslaved in Ireland. During his enslavement, he came to love and understand the Irish people. Additionally, he found God Himself, recognizing His hand in nature.
After 6 years, in a vision, God provided a way for Patrick to escape, which he did. He eventually made his way back to England and served as a priest there for many years.
When he was 48, he received a vision which he interpreted to be a missionary call to Ireland. He made an appeal to Rome, who ordained him as a bishop. Along with an entourage of priests, seminarians and others, he arrived in Ireland in 432 A.D.
Patrick's method was very different from what we are used to. He established Christian communities with his entourage, and invited the Irish to join them. Often these communities were called "monasteries", but that's not entirely accurate. They were self-governed villages essentially, where the inhabits worshiped God together. This was a rather original idea, and was done to target Irish culture, which Patrick knew intimately.
Through Patrick's methodology, these communities spread across the island, where the Irish could find peace and rest from tribal life. Conversion mostly came from immersion, rather than cerebral discussion, or emotional experientialism. Ireland developed a distinct look into the Christian faith with was loving, kind, natural, communal, and deep. I'm not claiming that Christianity is perfectly represented in the Irish. Of course not. But Christianity suited the Irish very well, and vice versa.
In this post, I hope to educate some of you into the importance of this day. Let us not celebrate by drinking to a stupor, but instead let us celebrate on the sacrifices and passion of St. Patrick. He is one of the greatest evangelists the church has ever produced, and a fine example of what it takes to spread the faith.
I conclude by offering a prayer developed in one of the celtic communities which derived from his designs:
I lie down this night with God,1. George G. Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism, (Nashville, TN: Abindon Press, 200), chapter 1.
And God will lie down with me,
I lie down this night with Christ,
And Christ will lie down with me;
I lie down this night with the Spirit;
And the Spirit will lie down with me;
God and Christ and the Spirit
Be lying down with me.2
2. Ibid, 34.