Patrick lived in 400 AD. Patrick was not Catholic. He wasn’t even Irish. He was brought up in what is now Wales, but then part of the Roman Empire. He was brought up in a wealthy family. The pagan Celts took him captive, in a pirating raid, when he was 16 and brought him to Ireland to be a slave. It was there, while sheep farming, that he was converted to the Christ that he was taught of in his home when a boy. In his own words, “I did not know the true God…,” but “lay in death and unbelief,” and “took no thought of my salvation”. Then he said, “the Lord opened the understanding of my unbelieving heart that I might recall my sins and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God.” After six years, he escaped his ruthless captors and returned home. But it was then that the Spirit of God called him to return to Ireland to preach the Gospel. He preached the Gospel with great power to a pagan, dark and fierce people. Many were converted over the long time he spent there. Again, in his own words he describes his labors as a missionary in Ireland, speaking of “insults”, “many persecutions” and “thrown into chains” and confined to periods of slavery. But through it all he had a commitment to his call from God. “Should I be worthy,” he writes, “I am prepared to give my life without hesitation and most gladly for His name and it is there (in Ireland) that I wish to spend it until I die.” His story is a great inspiration to those of us who share his calling to reach the pagan Celts with the gospel. After centuries of Roman Catholicism imprinting its mark outwardly, underneath the surface, the same paganism permeates the hearts and minds.
Of course, the Catholics claim him for themselves saying that he brought Catholicism to Ireland. There are many fanciful legends, tales and folklore about him having no foundation in truth. The most noteworthy being that he used the shamrock to illustrate the trinity. There is no evidence for this, yet this is how the shamrock is associated with Ireland today. The story of him chasing the snakes out of Ireland seems quite dubious in light of the constant political scandals and hucksters we constantly endure as citizens here.
Traditionally in Ireland, Patrick’s Day, or Paddy’s Day, as it is known here, is a national holiday. People are off from work and there are parades in every city and small town. It is kind of like American Memorial Day. It has been traditionally a religious holiday. But with the waning of those things here, it is more and more becoming a festive, community thing. In the parades, there will be people playing the bagpipes and little girls Irish dancing, right next to the display with people wearing cowboy outfits performing line dancing. People do not wear green, like in America, to tell everyone they are Irish as everyone already knows they are. They do not drink green beer (but they do drink plenty of their normal brown stuff), nor wear green hats and all of that. In fact, they are kind of bemused to see how Americans carry on about it. You will see all the who’s who of Irish politics and entertainment in America on St. Patrick’s Day, officiating at parades and the like. It is a great junket for the politicians who bask in all the attention from America for a day.
All in all, for the missionaries, it is rather quiet. You can count on it being cold, rainy and windy, with the biggest decision being to watch the Dublin parade on TV, or go down and freeze waiting for a half-hour for the local one that lasts 20 minutes.
(This was written by a missionary friend of ours about 15 years ago when he was serving the Lord in Ireland)