I’ve grown up believing St. Patrick’s Day to be a holiday giving every adult in America (and anywhere else the world over) an excuse to drink beer and celebrate life fully donned in Irish green. I mostly dismissed the holiday with the small exception of wearing green so as not to get pinched along with the annual viewing of Darby O’Gill and the Little People. However, little did I know about the man, St. Patrick, missionary to Ireland.
In his autobiography, The Confession of St. Patrick, Patrick outlines his history and conversion to Christianity. Enslaved in Ireland and working in green Irish pastures as a shepherd, Patrick recalled the truths of the Gospel which had been taught to him during his childhood in Great Britain. Patrick then put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ to save him from his sins. From that point forward, Patrick was a new man in Christ and would live with a new purpose:
Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favors and graces the Lord designed to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven. (The Confession of St. Patrick)
Once more, green pastures were the home of a man who would lead people to the One True God. Like the young shepherd, David, another disciple was being made to walk in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Surely goodness and mercy had followed a young man unaware of the future stretching out before him.
Six years Patrick worked as a shepherd, slave in Ireland before receiving a message from God in a vision to escape back to his homeland. Once safely reunited with family, Patrick dreamed another message from God to return to Ireland as a missionary spreading the good news of the Gospel. Patrick’s life work was revealed. He would later take the oath of a priest and return to the land of his slavery to set people free in the name of Jesus Christ.
Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of my confession. I
testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God and his holy angels that I never had
any reason, except the Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from
which I had previously escaped with difficulty. (The Confession of St. Patrick)
This year as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, remember the missionary behind the man we know as St. Patrick and the mission which continues.