(Image courtesy of amazon.com)
But who was Saint Patrick and what does his story have to say to us
now? Quite a lot, as I have discovered.
According to my book:
Born in Britain around 385, Patrick was still a child when he was carried off by Irish raiders who took him to Ireland as a slave. He later fled, returned to his home, and was educated and instructed as a priest. He decided to dedicate himself to the spread of Christianity in the places of his slavery, and in 432 he was sent to Ireland as a missionary bishop. He died in 461 (according to legend in 493, at more than 100 years of age). His cult is universal. He is depicted in bishop’s clothes, sometimes with a clover as attribute.
(Image courtesy of squidoo.com)
“I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother– especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Phm 1:10-16 NRS).
Saint Patrick was another Onesimus who, through the events of his slavery, found his call to serve Jesus Christ. He too was separated from Ireland for a short time only to return to them forever. Long after life left his body, his spirit remains in Ireland and with its people. Being a better Christian than I could promise I would be in his circumstances, Saint Patrick went back to the land of hardship and suffering he endured in servitude to offer them the greatest gift he had to give the world: his ministry, his testimony, his love of Jesus Christ embodied for them. Rather than let them languish in the darkness of their sinful ways, Patrick desired to be an instrument of God and bring the light of Christ to Ireland. Many of us would rather them remain in sin and let God punish them; our own Jonah mind resentful for the Grace offered to Nineveh. What a selfless act Saint Patrick began in his return to Ireland! And what an impact he had in a nation that now proudly proclaims him, not just a good man, an effective Christian, but their OWN Patron Saint! His story is testimony that, if we are willing to put aside our own anger, fears, and resentment, God is willing to use us as an instrument of Redemption, Reconciliation, and Grace. I think Saint Patrick would say that he was the one blessed to be used by God for God’s will to be made real in Ireland. With that in mind, Saint Patrick’s Day just got a little holier. Thanks be to God!
Lord Jesus Christ,
We, who have been slaves to our own sinfulness,
Give you thanks for your servant, Saint Patrick.
He was forced into slavery, like your people Israel,
But he did not grow hatred in his heart.
He opened his heart to you, and it was filled with a desire to serve you.
Saint Patrick spread your message of Grace and Love to Ireland,
There it found good ground and grew into a nation,
Christianity has flourished there and spread to others.
May we follow in his selfless example,
Offering you to those we would rather condemn and hold in contempt,
Learning to love in your holy name.
This day we celebrate Saint Patrick and know,
That to celebrate him is to celebrate you and your mighty word.
All honor and glory to you, our Redeemer!