I write and post this on March 17, 2023 which is St. Patrick’s Day. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. For more than 1,000 years the Irish have celebrated this saint bringing Christianity to Ireland. In many ways, people celebrate Irish culture more than they do what motivated Patrick.
Here’s why I post. We become what we celebrate.
Our congregation is a Baptist church. We are not Roman Catholic and do not have patron saints. We have significant differences in our theological formulations than do the Roman Catholics. But just because we don’t agree on everything doesn’t mean that church history is to be ignored or utterly rejected. Christians of all denominations and backgrounds can learn some things from Patrick’s life and witness.
Much of what is remembered regarding St. Patrick is fable and myth—like the claim that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. But what is certain about Patrick is his influence as a missionary. A Romanized Briton, Patrick was sold as a slave to a cruel Northern Irish master at 16. During his enslavement, he suffered greatly facing abuse and many difficulties. While raised nominally as a Christian, his suffering drove him to deeper faith in God. He escaped slavery after 6 years and boarded a ship to Europe.
Not long after returning to his family in England, God called him to be a missionary in Ireland—the land of his slavery. Though he may not have been the first missionary, Ireland in those days was pagan and wicked. Facing opposition from the druids, Patrick offered these words.
Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity. But I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of the God almighty who rules everywhere.St. Patrick
While not well-educated, Patrick prayed deeply and read the Scripture constantly. He also valued the education he lacked and promoted the copying of much European writings that actually resulted in their survival during the Middle Ages. His life and witness was greatly influential as hundreds of Celtic monks left their homeland to spread the gospel to Scotland, England and Europe.
I’m not suggesting that we adopt Patrick as a patron saint. But Patrick’s life and ministry do teach us some things worth celebrating. If we become what we celebrate, then what have you celebrated lately? Here are a just a few celebration lessons from Patrick’s history that we can adopt.
- We can celebrate spiritual development and learning. In his excellent book How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill tells the story of how Patrick’s love of learning and education influenced the copying of ancient texts and kept much learning alive in the Medieval world. In my devotions this morning, I read these verses in Galatians 4:18-19: “It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” Christ formed in us is the purpose of Christian discipleship (see also Romans 8:29). There is no better way to develop and learn spiritually than to read God’s Word and follow Christ. Take a moment today and celebrate the Bible that you have, the lessons from its pages, and the people who have taught it to you.
- We can celebrate even in suffering. Patrick’s life was anything but easy. He suffered unjustly as a slave facing cruelty and abuse. Many of us are suffering today physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Some of us have faced unjust or abusive treatment. Patrick did not withdraw into emotional or personal isolation. Rather, his sufferings drove him to God. I’m not suggesting that we celebrate our sufferings. But I am suggesting that we celebrate Jesus who suffered on our behalf, and that we celebrate the God whose suffering through Christ on the cross is our redemption.
- We can celebrate the work of redemption. Patrick was a missionary. He took the gospel to Ireland, and many became followers of Jesus because of his witness. Who shared the gospel with you? That person, church, Sunday school teacher, parent, grandparent, pastor, missionary, evangelist, friend is worth celebrating. And we must celebrate the salvation of sinners! In the past week, I’ve learned of three people who have put their faith in Christ. One was a gentleman I’ve been talking to recently. He was helped on his journey by several church members. Another was a 6 year old whose grandmother led him to trust in Christ after his many questions about Jesus and eternal life. The third was a gentleman who came to peace with Christ after realizing that the perfection he was striving for had already been attained by Christ. I’m celebrating these who have come to faith in Christ. Will you celebrate with me?
If you don’t wear green or participate in St. Patrick’s day celebrations, that’s ok. But let’s remember to celebrate what God has taught us, how he has helped us through suffering, and how his has redeemed us. If you’re in the Wilkesboro area, join us for worship at Wilkesboro Baptist as we celebrate Jesus this Sunday (8:00 am, 9:30 am, or 11:00 am). If you’re not in our area, make plans to go to church and celebrate this weekend.
My information about Patrick came from this wonderful book 131 Christians Everyone Should Know.
Photo by Artur Kornakov on Unsplash