It’s sad that holidays (especially Christian ones) tend to devolve over time until eventually we strip away all of the original meaning or significance they once held. For many, there is nothing more to March 17 than shamrocks and green beer.
So, for those of you who haven’t met him, allow me to briefly introduce you to the real Patrick. Patrick was actually not Irish at all. He was born on the British mainland and grew up in a Christian home. His dad held the office of deacon; his grandfather was a priest. Patrick was a rebellious teenager with a comfortable life and a loving family. But when Patrick was 16, Irish barbarians raided the mainland and kidnapped him and many others, taking them back to Ireland to be sold as slaves. Patrick’s owner gave him the job of watching his sheep, which gave Patrick lots of time to think about what he wanted to be when he grew up. At some point during his 6 years of loneliness and almost constant prayer, Patrick came to faith and relinquished control of his life to Christ. He prayed as many as a hundred prayers every day and a hundred prayers every night. One night, a “voice” spoke to Patrick, telling him to return home and that his ship was ready. The nearest port was 200 miles away, but Patrick somehow managed to travel there by foot and board a ship which took him back to the mainland and his family.
Some time later, Patrick had another dream in which a man named Victoricus was carrying an armload of letters and handed one to Patrick titled “The Voice of the Irish.” Patrick heard voices telling him to “come and walk among us again.” The Roman Catholic church had given up on the Irish, a truly barbaric, pagan people they deemed beyond hope. The Irish were a celtic people with no formal government made up of hundreds of constantly warring tribes or clans. After training for the ministry, Patrick returned to Ireland, where he devoted the rest of his life to sharing the gospel among the very pagans who had once kidnapped and enslaved him. From what we can tell, Patrick led about 100,000 souls to Christ, trained about a thousand pastors, and planted about 200 churches. His life was often in danger as he preached the gospel all across Ireland, often paying large sums of money to tribal chiefs in return for safe passage.
So while you are enjoying your Guinness draught and pinching those not wearing green, take time to reflect on the true and inspiring story of Patrick – the man of God, missionary, church planter and pastor.