In case you have any desire to know who you are drinking green beer in honor of tomorrow…
Around 405 A.D. the 16-year old grandson of a priest in Wales was kidnapped by foreign raiders. The boy, by his own admission, was not interested in God or religion at any level until that day. Stolen from his family, he was forced into herding sheep in Ireland – a culture far from his own. It was in these six years of slavery and solitude that Patrick called out to the God of his father and grandfather. God has always had a thing for shepherds. We are all, after all, like sheep going astray until he finds us. He found Patrick in Ireland.
At 22, according to his own letters, in his prayers he began to hear God say that he would soon return home. Then one night he clearly heard, “leave for a ship is waiting for you.” On that night he escaped and began a journey of 200 miles to a port where he boarded a ship for Britain.
Upon his return home, Patrick never felt at home. In a dream he saw a man named Victorious from Ireland pleading with him to “come and walk among us.”
So he left for Ireland.
The slave returning to set others free. The freedman enslaving himself to Christ. The shepherd seeking his lost sheep.
If we look closely into history, Patrick wasn’t the first Christian missionary to Ireland. But he sparked something. He ushered in a communal grace-centered expression of Christianity that swept through the culture like wildfire. He probably didn’t drive out snakes or teach life lessons with shamrocks, but he did something more significant.
He loved his enemies.
So much so that he is remembered today as one of them.
Patrick died 1,551 years ago tomorrow – on March 17, 461.
That is the day the church (and pent-up Americans looking for an excuse to party) celebrate his life.
It’s probably one worth celebrating.