Today is St. Patrick’s day. It is the feast day connected to the day that St. Patrick died. Next to St. Nicolas, St. Patrick is possibly the most popular of Christian saints around the world.
Patrick was born in Briton and lived there with relative wealth into his early teenage years. He was captured and enslaved in Ireland until he received a revelation leading to his escape back to Briton. Safe at home, Patrick experienced a conversion to Christian faithfulness and became ordained as a bishop. As a bishop, Patrick received another revelation leading him back to Ireland, this time as a free missionary.
As a missionary to the Celtic pagans of Ireland, Patrick was known to utilize everything in their culture to draw their attention to the God he worshipped. Tradition teaches us that he demonstrated the truth of the Trinity (God the Father, the Son and the Spirit are three persons of the one true God) through the Shamrock. There is also a famous legend in which Patrick drove out all of the snakes from Ireland. The snakes he supposedly drove out of Ireland were not literal, but figurative in the sense that he declared to the Irish people the truth about the Triune God driving away the lies of serpents.
It is arguable whether or not Patrick has ever been officially canonized as a Saint; largely because there wasn’t a canonization process in effect until the 12th century. Whether canonized or not, he is revered as a holy Saint by the Roman Church due to his humility and faithfulness in his missionary zeal. One need not be recognized to be considered a saint. God is the one who sets us apart, and considers us holy based upon the work of Jesus. This is why believers were addressed as saints prior to the establishment of a state church.
While not technically Irish, his identity with and love for the Celtic Irish people caused him to be welcomed and recognized globally as the Patron Saint of Ireland. In light of this, there is a staggering lesson to be learned and celebrated in the Christian community. George Hunter put it best when he wrote,
“Indeed, the fact that Patrick understood the people and their language, their issues, and their ways, serves as the most strategically significant single insight that was to drive the wider expansion of Celtic Christianity, and stands as perhaps our greatest single learning for this movement. There is no shortcut to understanding the people. When you understand the people, you will often know what to say and do, and how. When the people know that the Christians understand them, they infer that maybe the High God understands them too” (Hunter, George C. III. The Celtic Way of Evangelism, Abington Press, Nashville, 2000, p. 19-20).
My prayer for our Christian community is that we would follow in this exemplary brother’s lifestyle. May we too strive to understand the culture around us in an effort to communicate that God in Christ understands us, lived for us, died for us, and lives again, imploring us to repent from our sinfulness and trust Him that we too might have everlasting life.