A familiar national celebration is just around the corner. This coming Thursday, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated.
And who exactly is this saint who has captured the imagination of so many? Is he really the jolly-looking leprechaun in green with a top hat dancing a jig as he heads off to a rainbow in search of a pot of gold? Thankfully, no!
The real St. Patrick was born in Roman Brittan at the end of the 4th century into a wealthy family. But at the age of sixteen, while his home was being robbed, he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave where he spent the next six years in isolation as a shepherd. During his captivity, though he was in a non-Christian land, he prayed to God and found his faith steadily growing over the passing years.
He later escaped with the help of sailors and returned home where he underwent study to become a priest, and surprisingly, decided to return to Ireland upon having visions from the Lord to return to Ireland– the place of his capture – to minister to the people and spread the message of Christianity to an otherwise non-Christian nation.
By the time of his death on March 17th 461, he had preached for forty years, living a life of poverty, and bringing many to the faith as well as founding schools, churches, and monasteries. Legends say that he would commonly drive snakes out of Ireland and that he used the shamrock to explain the Trinity.
In September of 2019, a few months following my graduation from college, my mother and I spent ten days traveling the beautiful country of Ireland. Along our cross-country trip around the island, we visited the Rock of Cashel, also referred to as St. Patrick’s rock which is reportedly the site of the conversion of King Aenghus of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD.
St. Patrick, along with St. Joseph discussed last week, are role models to us on how not to shy away from the hardships we face, but to use those hardships as ways to grow closer to God and to others. We too, regardless of our education, ability, or place in life, are called to be saints: holy men and women who follow after Jesus and bring his love to those in our midst.
Here is an excerpt from St. Patrick’s breastplate prayer:
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.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!