Over the years, I have had mixed feelings about this date...
The thing I don't appreciate about March 17th is that I expect things to be green on that day, and yet most years the grass is still brown and lifeless. Wake up, grass! Leaves?? Anything??
By mid-March, I really long for the greening of life and landscape. But it doesn't usually happen that early. I have to be patient a while longer.
But, what I DO enjoy about March 17th is -- well, two things. First, it is my brother's birthday!! (Happy Birthday, Brother!!) He is a very cool guy and I love him a lot. All through our growing up we had lots of fun celebrating his birthday with green cakes. He didn't always wish for green, but he got it anyway.
The other great thing about March 17th is Saint Patrick's Day of course. I'm Irish, and Husband has Irish blood too. (Though he mostly talks about his Scottish heritage, his maternal grandma would tell you just how Irish she was). So our family really enjoys this day. We have fun wearing the colors.
In the last week or two we have been learning some interesting facts about St. Patrick. He has a fascinating story. I didn't do all this research myself; one better at it than I am did all the work. The information came from Patrick's own writings as well as from the Encyclopedia Britannica.
First, did you realized that Patrick was not Irish? Seriously!! Not even Irish!! And not only that, but he was not Catholic, though the Roman Church gave him the "Saint" title. And... he was not born on March 17th. Yeah -- all my ideas about him just got blown away! Here's the story:
Patrick was born in England to a father who was a pastor of the English church (not Catholic). As Patrick grew into young manhood, he rejected his father's faith. One day when he was about 16, he and some friends were playing on the beach when the Druids of Ireland came by ship and, seeing the young men there, kidnapped them. Now the Druids, you may know, were a scary bunch who were known to practice human sacrifice among other unpleasant things. I'm guessing Patrick and his friends were scared. They ran away from the incoming ship, only to run smack into some Druids coming from the other direction.
They were taken back to Ireland where thankfully they were not used as human sacrifices, but were sold into slavery. Patrick became a slave to a Druid priest, for whom he lived and worked for 6 years. He hated it, but felt that he deserved this miserable life after rebelling against his father and mother, his pastor, and God. He was humbled. Later he wrote that during this time he came back to God, and chose to accept the work of Christ on the cross as full payment for his sin, and give himself fully to Christ.
Six years after becoming a slave, he managed to escape, running on foot through 200 miles of forest to the shore, where he found passage on a ship and made his way back to his home in England. His parents were overjoyed to have him back and wished he would never leave again. He didn't plan to at first, but as much as he hated his time of servitude in Ireland, he kept thinking about he people there and the fact that they did not know the one true God, the God of love and justice and mercy. He would dream about them at night, and he felt these dreams were messages from God. The people of Ireland needed the Truth. So Patrick went back.
Patrick then went all throughout Ireland teaching and preaching, telling the people about Christ who came to love the world, who came to die in order to pay the penalty for all our sins in order to make a way for us to go to heaven. He gave the people hope. And they turned to Christianity. It is said that Patrick converted 120,000 Irish people in his lifetime! That is a phenomenal number! I can not really fathom that. And... get this... the population of Ireland at the time was about 300,000!! You can do the math... this one man converted almost half of the population of an entire country. He gave them the truth and they chose to follow it. Wow!
Patrick wrote that his life verse was Phillipians 1:12 - "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
St. Patrick wrote a prayer when he was to appear before the Druid priest which was made into a hymn, and today is called St. Patrick's Breastplate". You can read the rich, powerful words here.
Some 700 years later, long after Patrick had died, the king of England got unhappy with the fact that Ireland was full of evangelical churches. He wanted Ireland to be Catholic. So he sent a few thousand soldiers under the banner of the Pope to invade Ireland and force them to convert. (I still don't understand the idea of "church soldiers", making war with those who disagreed, but things were different then. Not in a good way.)
The King must've thought it would be an easy job, or I bet he'd have sent more troops. But instead of a few months, it took them several years to subdue the people of Ireland and get them to join the Catholic church. Many protested the invasion and clung to their beliefs... thus the "Protestants". A large number of these protesters retreated into the northern part of the country, where even to this day, you will find those who call themselves Protestants. So today we have Ireland (the southern part), which is commonly thought of as Catholic, and North Ireland, the protestant part. Now, the actual beliefs of the people have changed over time and is not exactly what Patrick taught. The people are at war with each other at this point, and it seems their focus is not so much on the ideologies. But back in that day, he northern protestants chose to separate from the rest of Ireland and keep their faith. They still wanted to celebrate St. Patrick's Day... but they didn't want to wear green like the southern, Catholic Irishmen did... so they wore orange instead.
And even today the Irish Catholics wear Green on St. Patrick's day, whereas the Irish Protestants wear orange.
Oh... And Patrick, who was canonized by the Catholic church even though he never belonged to it, died on March 17th, about 466 AD.
As I searched for images of this man, I found there to be many images, all different. I guess we really don't know what he looked like. Interestingly, they all appeared to me to make him look like a person of position in the Roman Church. Go figure.
St. Patrick may not have cleared out the snakes, but he did some powerful evangelizing!