On this St. Patrick’s Day, 2020, many people are sequestered. There is no parade in NYC (which means no politics…yeah!) and the bars are not allowed to hold celebrations. The parties have ceased. So now’s the time for a reflective hitchhiker, who’s name happens to be Patrick, to sit back and ponder what this holiday is really about.
While the Roman world was collapsing in the 5th century, there was a bishop in Ireland introducing the resurrected Christ to a people the Romans considered barbarians. From my studies, this man travelled through Ireland with an entourage of priests, nuns, monks, and families planting churches at an unprecedented rate. When Rome finally collapsed, it was many of these Celtic Christian leaders that maintained many of the sacred writings and traditions of the church. Columba, a student of this movement, went on to bring Christianity to Scotland, and Brigit of Kildare was an abbess who founded several monasteries for nuns (holy virgins) throughout Ireland. These three are the patron saints of Ireland.
Unfortunately, their stories are forgotten or have become more folklore than reality. Patrick did not chase the snakes away, his walking stick did not become a tree, he did not speak to the ancient Irish ancestors, nor did he use a shamrock to illustrate the Trinity. These are all legends that popped up hundreds of years later.
What we do know comes from the two remaining writings of the saint. One was a letter condemning the enslavement of Irish Christians by a general named Coroticus, and the other was an apologetic (defense) of his legitimacy as a bishop when he was being challenged by some bishops on the mainland. (Letter to Coroticus, and the Confessio)
So my friends, on this day as you tilt back a Guinness or an Irish whiskey while eating corned beef and potatoes, remember to thank God for Christians like Patrick who shared their faith and lived it before a world who did not know “42”.
If you are interested in reading more about Patrick of Ireland, here are a couple of books I highly recommend.