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St. Patrick Surprise (03/18/2012)

From: T.M. Schoewe

We all need to learn about the real St. Patrick and we will be surprised how much we owe to him. It’s no wonder why so many people have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day each year, so we should at least make sure we know some of his story. Patrick and the Celtic Christian movement that followed him, continues to influence and challenge us to this day as we travel and seek the ultimate frontier between faith and unbelief.

So for right now let’s drop the stories of banishing snakes from Ireland and all the stories about the leprechauns and the lucky shamrock and just ask “who is the real Patrick?”

Who is the real St. Patrick? Well, he was not an Irishman, originally! He was an Englishman from northern Britain and no doubt of the Celtic Christian faith. He was born along the coast of southwestern England into a family that was most likely descendents of Roman soldiers or merchants who first brought the Christian faith to England. As a teenager he was captured by a raiding party of Irish pirates from Ireland and taken there as a slave in 401 A.D. In that captivity Patrick was to tend sheep on the green hills of Ireland. About six years later he escaped to France. Returning to England for a time he then returned to France to study theology, then once again he returned to England o/a 432 A.D. where it is said he had a vision from Ireland which called to him “come walk among us once again.” This is just what Patrick did!

When young Patrick went to Ireland it was still a rough and tough place, entirely rural and rugged and governed by many competitive Chieftains. But Patrick settled among them. He and some of his followers built centers or abbeys later called monasteries. These centers sometimes were not much more than huts made out of brush. But from these crude dwellings (crude by our standards) the gospel touched not only the Irish chieftains or lords but also the commoners of Ireland in ever increasing numbers. And the greatest part of Patrick’s story is that it didn’t stop in Ireland. The Celtic Christians who called themselves “Peregrines” (ie. Wanderers) were wanderers for Christ and through them not only Scotland was evangelized, but Wales and northern England; and by 600 and 700 A.D. Celtic missionaries crossed the English Channel into France, where they went out in groups of twelve to establish more outposts. In one of these groups was a man named Ansgar, who became a missionary to Denmark and Sweden. His is another story worth looking up in more detail. And although this Celtic tradition from England reunited with Roman Christianity in France and Germany around 664 A.D, the Celtic missionary spirit continued to cover all of Europe’s northern lands. And finally after another 200 years all of Scandinavia became officially Christian, which was a relief to Ireland, Britain, and all of Europe for that matter, because for years they had suffered from the raids of the pagan Norwegian Vikings.

There is a strong line which connects us to St. Patrick and his Celtic followers, as well as to all our western Christians; it includes mostly Catholics but also Lutherans and all sorts of Protestants. It is a long missionary trail which ran from Ireland to Germany to Scandinavia, through the Reformation and across the Atlantic Ocean to America and now to us today. This long trail of St. Patrick’s “wanderers for Christ” leaves us with a blessing that helps us stay aboard the road that steers us across the frontier we all face between faith and unbelief.

So let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today, this 17th day of March. “Put on some green,” with a hat, a dress, a shirt, or maybe even sport some green socks with shamrocks on them, anything green will do! And if you are on a special diet during Lent, take the day off; and if you believe in a toast, give one to St. Patrick. Give thanks that Patrick is a part of your history.

P.S. One little extra: It was said that Patrick used Mother Nature’s and Ireland’s Shamrock or 3-leaf clover to explain the Doctrine of the Trinity to country folk as he preached the Word across that land. Three yet One.



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