Isn’t it sad that the last lingering remnants of a feast commemorating the life of a brave and selfless man… are shamrocks and green beer?
The Feast of St. Patrick–a very early missionary who lived in the 5th century–is today. Patrick famously used the three-leaved shamrock plant to try to illustrate the mystery of the Trinity to the heathen tribes of Ireland. Shamrock motifs are still synonymous with St. Paddy’s Day, though I dare say most folks have no idea why any more.
I decided to go hunting for some quotes from the patron saint of Ireland. I’m sure most of you are familiar with at least some of the beautiful words of “Patrick’s Breastplate“ since it is so commonly quoted, although it actually can’t be traced back any further than three centuries after Patrick lived.
This section has been set to music several times,and is probably the most well-known:
“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.”
But today I came across another quote, and this one is almost certainly by St.Patrick. I found it both beautiful and inspiring:
“I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that “all that I am,” I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God…If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.“
(from a letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, ca. 450 AD, after they had massacred newly-baptized Christians)
It’s impossible not to admire someone who voluntarily placed himself in danger and discomfort, far from home, in order to evangelize a people who had formerly mistreated him. There have been many such heroes of the faith over the centuries, and it is right for us to honor them.
So take a moment today to thank God for St. Patrick, and for all those who still choose to live as strangers in strange lands for the sake of the gospel. If you’re really brave…ask the Lord where He would have you be His witness.
Here’s “Be Thou My Vision”, a hymn of Celtic origin, to help you celebrate. Skip the green beer.