Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Story of Saint Patrick

“During the night Paul had a vision: …a man of Macedonia pleading with him… ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” When we had seen the vision, we crossed over… being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.” (Acts 16:9-10)

If there ever was an example of God’s compassionate grace at work in our world, the man known today as Saint Patrick (387-460 A.D.) certainly was it.  One of the first Christian missionaries to Ireland, his ministry there is said to have eventually led to the conversion of the entire island to Christianity.

Born to a Christian family in Roman Britain, at age 16 he was captured and carried as a slave across the water to Ireland.  While in captivity, he remembered and began to practice the Christian teachings of his parents and grandparents, and his own faith slowly grew.  Six years later he escaped and returned to Britain.  Back home, however, he experienced a vision in which he saw Irish people begging him to “come walk” with them and teach them the faith of Christ.

So, he returned to the place of his enslavement -- this time voluntarily as a missionary -- and began preaching and teaching the ways of Jesus to the inhabitants of the island, and supporting the work of those Christians already living there.  Even though his work was challenged in the early years, within a few decades, he was respected throughout Ireland, converting many important leaders, including sons of various Irish kings.  As a result, he became the first Bishop of Ireland and eventually its patron saint.

He is remembered today for many things:  using a shamrock to teach people about the Holy Trinity of God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit); supposedly banishing all snakes from Ireland (there are none there); the famous St. Patrick’s cross; his walking stick growing into a tree; and for his mythical debates with pagan warrior kings from Ireland’s past, convincing them of the truths of Christianity.

In honor and remembrance of his life and ministry, today every March 17th (the date of his death) is celebrated around the world as Saint Patrick’s Day.  Although many places ignore or downplay his religious influence and teachings, as Christians we should take time to give thanks for the life and ministry of one who brought God’s Grace to an entire nation. Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

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