The Mission to Ireland – St. Patrick, Leprechauns, and Green Beer

st. patrick

 

When it comes to St. Patrick's Day most people think of shamrocks, leprechauns, parades,  and, ah yes, green beer!  But who was the real St. Patrick? Did he enjoy adding food color to his beverages and dressing up in green attire? Well, I don't think so. What I do know is that St. Patrick loved Jesus and lived a very missional life!

Let's start with several misconceptions about St. Patrick...First of all, and this is surprising to most, Patrick wasn't really a Saint, having never been officially canonized by Rome (don’t try to tell an Irishmen this, he won’t like it!). And Patrick couldn't have driven the snakes out of Ireland because snakes are not even indigenous to Ireland. (Of course, most say “snakes” where simply metaphorical because he did drive the “demons” and “serpents” out, so to speak, when Christianity replaced paganism.)  He was not the first Christian in Ireland and actually, he wasn't even the first missionary/evangelist to Ireland.  A dude named Palladius had been sent in 430 A.D., approximately five years before Patrick began his ministry in Ireland.  Oh, here’s a big one…green was not the original color associated with Patrick.  It was blue!  (I know, this is crazy!)  Also, Patrick isn't Irish, he was Scottish!  He was from what is now Dumbarton, Scotland (just northwest of Glasgow).

So here's what we do know about him. When he was a teenager, Patrick was captured in a raid and became a slave in the pagan country of Ireland. Far from home, he clung to the religion he had ignored as a young man. Even though his grandfather had been a Christian, some say he was a priest, and his father a town councilor, Patrick, according to his own admission, "knew not the true God." But forced to tend his master's sheep in Ireland, he spent his six years of bondage mainly in prayer, often reciting and reflecting upon the Lord’s Prayer. After his escape, here returned home to Scotland and devoted himself to theological studies.

It is believed that Patrick was in his forties when he returned to the land that had enslaved him some twenty years earlier.  What an amazing demonstration of the transforming power of the Gospel, rather than animosity and hatred toward the land that had kidnapped him, he refused to return evil for  evil and loved them with the message of the Gospel.  He simply could not resist the call of God to go and serve his enemies! Familiar with the Irish clan system (his former master, Milchu, had been a chieftain, i.e. a clan leader), Patrick's missional strategy was to try to convert the clan leaders first, who would then convert their clans through their influence. (Some reports tell us that Milchu was one of his earliest converts.)

Though Patrick was not solely responsible for converting Ireland to Christianity, he was quite successful. He ministered all over Ireland, and it soon became known as one of Europe's Christian centers.  Patrick died in his beloved Ireland, March 17th, about 460 A.D.

Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear
none of
these things because of the promises
of heaven.  I have cast myself into the hands of
God almighty who rules everywhere.

~ Patrick

St. Patrick’s Breastplate (a beautiful Christian prayer/hymn attributed to Patrick):

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.


I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.


I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.


Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.


Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.


I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.


Other St. Patrick Links you may find helpful:
Also see - 10 Things You You Didn't Know About St. Patrick's Day
And be sure to check out this recent article on St. Patrick by The Resurgence - Vintage Saints: Saint Patrick
The True Story of St. Patrick – Relevant Mag.
St. Patrick: One of the Greatest Missionaries Who Ever Lived – The Resurgence
Patrick the Saint – Christianity Today
The Conversion of Ireland – Christian Classics Ethereal Library
The Confession of St. Patrick – Christianity Today
Will the Real St. Patrick Please Stand Up? – Joyful Heart


Oh yeah, and…:

How to Make Green Beer