There’s more to St. Patrick’s Day than the wearing of green, eating corned beef and cabbage, and celebrating all things Irish. St. Patrick was a great follower of Christ, who brought the Christian faith to Ireland as a missionary and exemplified whole life worship of God.
Patrick was born in England, actually, sometime during the 5th century. His youth was turbulent and he was actually kidnapped by Irish pirates, taken and held in captivity in Ireland. It was during those years, he came to faith in Christ. Through a miraculous series of events, Patrick was able to escape captivity and made it back to his home in England. But God spoke to him in a vision. He was to return to Ireland and preach the Gospel to the people there.
In obedience, Patrick returned to Ireland and was initially greeted harshly as an outsider. It was because of his persistence of faith and example of Christ-centered love that eventually turned the Irish people through pagan worship to becoming followers of Jesus Christ. He led thousands to faith in Christ. As well, he exemplified whole life worship through a life of integrity – like not giving into the bribes of kings and lords of the lands, and, as a result, facing tremendous persecution.
But Patrick realized that his work was not done. While it was important to lead people to Christ, they needed “shepherds” – leaders who could teach and train them to live according to the ways of Christ. So Patrick planted churches, and then monasteries (the first “seminaries” – places to train young leaders to evangelize, plant churches, disciple followers and raise up more leaders). He took seriously Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “And the things you heard my say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). Patrick established a model of church and discipleship multiplication that is still being used today.
But at the core of Patrick was his dependency on Christ, day by day and moment by moment – what I call “whole life worship.”And on that note, I close with a portion of Patrick’s prayer, inscribed on a shield (think of the “shield of faith” in Ephesians 6:16):
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
So enjoy your green, your corned beef and all things Irish today. But remember the one for who this holiday is named, and his life of whole life worship.