Why Christians should Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Posted: March 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

Ahhh…today is St. Patrick’s Day.  One of my very favorite holidays.  But, also one of the most controversial holidays, primarily because of the idiots that binge drink and throw up all over themselves on this particular day.  I personally think that St. Patrick’s day should be celebrated by Christians as a holiday to commemorate a godly man who served Christ selflessly until his death.  We have to look past the reckless drunkenness  at this holiday time the same way we have to find meaning in Christmas apart from the wanton materialism.  I thought I would give a brief history of who St. Patrick was so that you are familiar with him and what he did.

Patrick was born to high-society parents in Roman-occupied Britain sometime during the late fourth century (probably 387). Around the age of 16, Patrick was captured by Irish bandits and sent to Ireland, where he was sold into slavery. For six years he worked as a shepherd, tending flocks for his owner, a local chieftain and high priest of the Druids. There he learned the Celtic tongue — perfectly, it is said. And in those difficult conditions, the exiled young man turned inward and discovered God. In his Confessions, Patrick wrote that he “prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn.”

At 20, he made a dramatic escape, traveling some 200 miles to the coast and, with the help of some sailors, made his way back to Britain, where he reunited with his family.

After his return, Patrick, now a deeply religious man, decided to study for the priesthood, and spent some many years in a monastery in France, in preparation for his new work. In 432, according to most sources, he was sent to Ireland to serve a local bishop. Upon landing he was met, according to legend, by one of the Irish chieftains, who threatened to kill him. Patrick won him over, and the man became a Christian. When the bishop died, Patrick was appointed successor. He would now serve the flock in a different way.

In his 40 years in Ireland he attracted numerous followers, baptized thousands, and built churches — for the people who had previously enslaved him. “I never had any reason,” he wrote, “except the Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had previously escaped with difficulty.” He died in 461 — in Ireland, of course.

Certainly a man worthy knowing about. For the Christian, Patrick poses an important question: would you be willing to serve a place where you had known heartache? And how much is the Gospel worth to you? For everyone, he offers a challenge: can you forgive the people who have wronged you? Could you even love them?

I mean this man was a somewhat modern day Joseph.  One of his most famous prayers, known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” is a beautiful reminder of how this man viewed life:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

As you can see, this man was consumed with thoughts of Christ.

As a side note, not every one wears green on St. Patrick’s Day. Below is a breakdown of the color options, though I encourage you to wear green.

Green is for Catholics/Nationalists (those who favor sovereignty for the Irish)

Orange is for Protestants/Unionists (those who favor British control of the Irish)

The friction is commonly depicted as religious in nature, but it is actually political. The Orange have their roots in the British loyalists who were granted power after the protestant William of Orange defeated Catholic James II after he had fled to Ireland.

Since St. Patrick was Catholic, wearing orange on his day is considered a provocative insult – but only if you know what it means. Also, I would like to note that St. Patrick was Catholic long, long before the Reformation.  Men like Augustine were also Catholic, so don’t be confused that Catholic then was the Catholic we know now.  I for one am wearing green.

So, I would urge you to raise a pint of Guinness (be a man, I know it’s thick, and very rich, but it’s a man’s drink.  And made in Ireland) to St. Patrick, who is having a far better St. Patrick’s Day than we are-worshiping Christ in heaven.

For more information on Saint Patrick, I highly recommend the book, “How the Irish Saved Civilization”.

  1. Rusty says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for the history lesson, Larry. I enjoyed that and confess that I knew absolutely nothing about St. Patrick other than annoying people will pinch me if I don’t wear green on his holiday. Incidentally, did you know that the author of the book, “The search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World” is from Nashville? There was an article in The Tennessean about him the other day.

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