upper room daily devotions

Friday, March 16, 2007

happy saint patrick's day

The shamrocks and dancing leprechauns found on many a Saint Patrick's Day card have little to do with Saint Patrick. Nor do stories about snakes driven from Ireland (he never drove them out!). Nor does the tradition of wearing green for good luck. Saint Patrick was born in c385 as Patricius, the son of a Roman decurion (a tax collector)named Calpurnius. He most likely lived in Wales. At about sixteen years old he was abducted and taken into slavery in Ireland, and became Patrick. While there Patrick had two visions. The first told him that he would someday go home. The second vision told him that a ship was ready and waiting to take him away; he travelled over 200 miles to find it. After fleeing Ireland after six years of enslavement, he returned home to Britain and became a staunch opponent of slavery in any form. He went to Gaul and studied to become a priest and eventually saw a vision that led him to return to Ireland to live among the people, thus bringing Christianity to Ireland. While he was not the only Christian in Ireland at the time (432), he had the biggest and longest lasting impact.

The story of Saint Patrick is an astounding story. The very fact that we know much about him at all is remarkable. Written records don't exist for Britain during this time period. Somehow some of his writings survived and stories about him were written. He moved Christianity beyond the bounds that held it for four hundred years into Ireland. He lived among his captors a free man, reconciled with his past as a slave. He was a mystic and an adverturer. Saint Patrick believed that those who once enslaved him deserved to experience the gospel that changed his life. He was deeply devoted to God. He was a bishop of the Church.

On this Saint Patrick's Day, I wish you the tenacity of this saint, his heart for reconciliation and forgiveness, his sense of adventure, his openness to dream visions, and his love for the Divine. And, oh, feel free to wear green, drink a beer, and have some fun. Just because legends and traditions don't lie at the heart of the matter doesn't mean they aren't fun!

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