Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. My son’s already proudly taped his pre-school leprchan project to my refrigerator. By adulthood, his associative amassment will no doubt include rainbows leading to pots of gold, lucky four-leafed clovers, parades, corned beef dinner, and heaven-forbid green beer, as having some particular meaning to the day.

“Crist lim, Crist rium
Crist imdegaid, Crist innium
Crist issum, Crist úasum
Crist dessum, Crist tuathum
Crist illius, Crist issius, Crist inerus”

Fifteen-hundred years after St. Patrick, I climbed the same barren hill of Slane he climbed during Beltain, the first day of spring on which sacred Kings worshipped and honored the goddess Medb Lethderg – translation: “intoxication” – with copious quantities of mead.

My eyes took in the same 360-degree view as his. The warning of the High King Loaghaire was far more impactful to me there, on that breezy summit than they were in the comfort of my reading chair, several thousand miles away: “whoever in all the country, far or near, should kindle a fire before the king’s should be put to death by his people”.

So it was, that St. Patrick, inwardly lit by the Holy Spirit’s fire, climbed the hill of Slane, chanting what has become known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, fashioned after Ephesians 6:

“Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ below me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height.”

If you have a salvation message for a pagan King, what better way to get his attention than to set a bonfire ablaze, in direct violation of custom, on top the highest hill. It wasn’t long before the Royal Guard captured him, presenting him to the King.

One version tells it that St. Patrick was met with an outraged King and mocking druids who taunted him, asking him if he could make it snow. Patrick replied “only God could make it snow”. In perfect timing, the snow began to fall. The King was so impressed, he allowed St. Patrick to continue his missionary work.

Although St. Patrick is commonly known to be the first Christian missionary of Ireland, he wasn’t. His life, other than what is known through his written “confessions”, is entangled with other Irish legends, making it difficult to separate myth from reality.

With absolute certainty, we know Britian-born St. Patrick was kidnapped, serving many years as an Irish slave. In his own words, he wrote of his Providential escape to Britian, an overwhelming desire to study in Rome, becoming a priest, and his disappointment in not being able to articulate his thoughts in Latin as well as his peers, who spent time devoted to institutions of higher learning while he was in captivity.

It is an inspiring, humble life not devoted to superstitious beliefs of lucky shamrocks, but instead, spent with a tireless devotion to Christ who provided for all his needs. It is a life well lived through Faith, one that I vow my children will learn in place of the cartoons and fairy tales of a superstitious pagan people.

There are many wonderful reads on the life of St. Patrick, no matter the time of year. The ones I can recommend from my own personal library include:

“Confessions of Saint Patrick” by JOHN SKINNER “I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop…”

“St. Patrick of Ireland” A Biography by Philip Freeman

“I, Patrick a Sinner…” A Tale Worth Telling by Stephanie Lavenia Swinnea. Another novel about Patrick’s life, narrated by the saint himself.

“How the Irish Saved Civilization (Hinges of History)” by Thomas Cahill

Others that are highly recommended –

“Let Me Die in Ireland, The True Story of Patrick” by David W. Bercot

“Who was Saint Patrick?” by E.A. Thompson

“The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History” by John B. Bury

“Western Europe in the Middle Ages: A Short History” by Joseph R. Strayer

“Patrick: Son of Ireland” by Stephen R. Lawhead. An epic historical novel about the early life of the man who would one day be known as St. Patrick.

“I Am of Irelaunde : A Novel of Patrick and Osian” by Juilene Osborne-McKnight. A story that combines the story of St. Patrick with fantasy.

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