Today is St. Patrick's Day. For many people of Irish heritage this is a day of celebration of all things Irish. It typically involves parades, parties, and green beer (ugh!). Along with all the fun float around images of leprechauns, shamrocks and images of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland. But who is the real St. Patrick and what did he do?
Patrick was actually a native to Britain. He was captured by Irish slave traders when he was 16 years old. The son of a deacon, he was raised in the Church, but was far from a true, personal faith. He spent 6 years as a slave in Ireland, living out in the fields as a shepherd. During this time he devoted himself to prayer. Finally, one night, God gave him a vision of a ship which would take him away from Ireland. He stole away one night, finding the ship and gaining safe passage to his home.
After some time, Patrick had another dream. This time he saw a man from Ireland calling him to come back to Ireland to preach the gospel to them. With this in mind, Patrick was convinced God was calling him to be a missionary. He sought ordination and was eventually made a bishop. He returned to Ireland. For 30 years he preached the gospel. Virtually all of Ireland was converted during this time. It is for this reason that St. Patrick has come to be known as the patron saint of Ireland.
I am not Irish. Many of the modern traditions are lost on me. But I do greatly admire St. Patrick. He could have grown angry and bitter about his circumstances when he was kidnapped. But instead, he turned to prayer. He forgave those who wronged him, and even allowed such love to grow in his heart as to return to them so that they might be saved. He risked his life continually for these foreigners. But it was his passion.
I want to be like Patrick. I want to live a life of prayer. I want to walk close with God. I want to learn to be a forgiving and loving person. I want to spend my life in preaching the gospel to whoever will listen.
To do these things is not hard- not for God anyway. If I will submit to Him, I too can do these things. We all can.
This year, instead of dwelling on the parties and parades, let us devote some time to prayer so that perhaps we can be like Patrick and preach the gospel, even to those who hate and mistreat us.