Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why This Protestant Celebrates St. Patrick's Day (and his life)

            OK, I know as a more Reformed style Protestant I should be wearing orange today, but my green shirt is on, and I’m enjoying remembering the history of a young man who escaped from slavery, only to experience both God’s call to himself and then God’s direction to go back to the very people who enslaved him to preach Christ. 
            “But wasn’t he a Catholic?”  Well, yes, but there weren’t Protestants back then—all Christians were a part of the one organized “universal” (that’s what Catholic means) church.  And many historians believe that the Christianity he left behind in Ireland after his death was a much more robust Christianity than the Latin version became as time went by—witness the evangelistic zeal of the Irish monks that traveled the known world in the centuries after Patrick.
            History is sketchy, and myth can work its way into such stories, but the basic outline of Patrick’s life is as follows.  He was a Briton who was kidnapped by Irish raiding pirates and carried to Ireland where he became a slave.  He escaped a harsh life there to return to Britain, where his faith was established and he had a calling (some stories say a vision) to return to Ireland.  He did so, and through preaching and contests with pagan priests, established the message of Christ firmly on Irish soil.  Such a story should be celebrated and emulated by all who cherish the message and power of the Gospel. 
Here is a stanza from a prayer attributed to Patrick, passed down through the ages.
"Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."

            Happy St. Patrick’s Day!