Who Was Saint Patrick?

Bill Thrasher
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St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 in honor of St. Patrick’s death on this day in 460. The Irish have observed this holiday for over a thousand years by attending church in the morning and having a festive celebration in the afternoon. St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in the United States in Boston, in 1737. The holiday’s first parade in the new world was held in New York City in 1762, and Irish soldiers serving in the English army marched in it.

In the United states, the day and parade were initially motivated by a desire for the Irish to celebrate their heritage. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million Irishmen came to America to escape starvation. The St. Patrick’s Day parade not only became a time to celebrate their heritage, but also to organize a voting bloc. President Truman attended the new York City St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1948.

Everyone’s a Little Irish on March 17!

This is now a holiday celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United states, Canada, and Australia. It has even been celebrated in Japan, Singapore, and Russia. Parades are held not only in New York, but also in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Savannah, Georgia. In 1962, the tradition of dying the Chicago River green began as a part of the celebration.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is not ultimately about honoring St. Patrick, but rather about honoring a person of Christ who met him in his fear and gave him a work to do.

Initially, this was a religious celebration where even the pubs were closed in Ireland on this day until 1970. Now the festivities can easily ignore or put into the distant background the spiritual heritage of this day.

Who Was Saint Patrick?

St. Patrick brought Christianity to the Irish people in the 400s. His life remains something of a mystery, and some legends that have arisen, like the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false (Ireland has never had any snakes). He was born in Britain near the end of the fourth century to wealthy parents and died on March 17, 460.

He was taken prisoner at age sixteen by a group of Irish raiders who were seizing his family’s estate. They brought him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. In his captivity, he worked as a shepherd away from people. In his loneliness and fear he turned to Christ for comfort. It is believed that at this time he began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christ. He escaped from his captivity and walked to the Irish coast and then to Britain where he sensed a call to return to Ireland for missionary work.

How Should We Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?

What would be a way to celebrate this holiday and not ignore its spiritual significance? Christ became precious to Patrick when he was lonely and afraid. we can meditate on the testimony of Psalm 34:4: “I sought the lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” At what point of fear do you need to seek God? Also, ask each friend or family member in your celebration how they can be aided in cultivating a closer friendship with Christ next year. Write down their response and read it next St. Patrick’s day to see how the year went.

You can also read Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Pray over each person in your celebration and let each one express their willingness to obey God in regard to his set of good works for them. we are not saved by good works (Ephesians 2:8–9), but we are saved for good works (verse 10).

You might even consider beginning to pray for the nations of the world. An excellent resource is Operation World by Patrick Johnstone, which gives a way to pray for the nations each day of the year. If you visit operationworld.org, you can be directed to a daily prayer need. This is a key way to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is not ultimately about honoring St. Patrick, but rather about honoring a person of Christ who met him in his fear and gave him a work to do. Why not have a time to worship the Lord and praise Him?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

For Further Reading:

Putting God Back in the Holidays

by Bill & Penny Thrasher

Instead of the joy-filled celebrations that we build up in our minds, the holidays (pick one, any one) can often become stress-filled,...

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