Today is that strange day, in which failing to where green is met with the threat of being pinched.
There are plenty of things we don’t know, or at least don’t know with certainty, and the tale about the snakes is either a metaphor or a later legend, but today is St. Patrick’s Day. Green beer, green rivers, and parades are recent additions (and originally more popular in North America than Ireland, interestingly), but people have been celebrating and feasting in Patrick’s honor for well over a thousand years. Modern excess might miss the mark and the meaning, but Patrick’s feast day was a festival break from the fasting of Lent for generations.
I think it is interesting that in the ancient church when it recognized a particularly faithful life or a fruitful example of discipleship decided the proper response was to throw a party in that person’s honor. Today, the very idea of faithfulness or holiness is belittled or if they are recognized as a blessing they are employed as instruments of shame. Why can’t you be more like (fill in the blank historical or contemporary hero of virtue of holiness)? I increasingly think the ancients have this one right. When we recognize people or moments where God’s grace has shone brightly, it is a great reason to feast, to throw a party and to celebrate. Additionally, we get better at spotting God at work in the lives of others and in moments around us when we remember and feast in the honor of those who came before us.
Patrick was born to fairly well-off Britons in the late 4th century AD, was captured at 16 by Irish pirates, and taken back as a captive to Ireland. For six years Patrick worked on foreign soil under the control of his captures. He eventually escapes and makes it back to Britain where he enters the priesthood. He had a vision that compels him to return to Ireland and share the good news of Jesus in the same place that he was enslaved. Once captured now called, Patrick established churches, proclaimed Christ and gave his life to offer good news to the people of Ireland.
The Breast Plate of St. Patrick (sometimes called a prayer) is worth reading in its entirety but here are my favorite parts:
I Bind myself this day, (to)
The Power of God to guide me,
The Might of God to uphold me,
The Wisdom of God to teach me,
The Eye of God to watch over me,
The Ear of God to hear me,
The Word of God to give me speech,
The Hand of God to protect me,
The Way of God to prevent me,
The Shield of God to shelter me,
The Host of God to defend me…
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot-seat,
Christ in the mighty stern…
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me,
Christ in the eye of every man that sees me,
Christ in the ear of every man that hears me.