During the month of March is an obscure holiday celebrated by the Irish and the Irish “at heart” with much enthusiasm. But what is the real reason for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? Is it merely celebrating the Irish heritage of loud boisterous parties flowing with alcohol, parades in New York City and Dublin, Ireland, and wearing green? Or could it mean something more, especially to Christians both in the United States and Ireland? To find out the true meaning for the “wearing o’ the green”, I used the Masland Library databases to increase my understanding of St. Patrick.
St. Patrick was born to an aristocratic family in Britain in the fourth century. While he was a young man, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland where he was enslaved for six years. Due to this enslavement, Patrick never learned to read and is known as having a poor rhetoric because he was never taught the rhetoric of Britain. Patrick, however, learned a different type of rhetoric that allowed him to return to Ireland as an evangelist.
Patrick’s story is inspiring to me as a Christian. First, instead of resenting God and walking away from him because he was enslaved, Patrick used his knowledge of how the Irish thought and learned as a means of bringing them Gospel. When Patrick was able to return to Britain after six years in slavery, he became a bishop for the Roman Catholic Church and was called by God back to Ireland. A second way that Patrick inspires me is that God was able to use him to evangelize an entire barbarian country without a formal education! Because of being enslaved at the age of 15, Patrick did not receive the formal education he would have due to his family’s status in society. We can know based on Patrick’s life that God is able to use anyone at any academic level to spread his Gospel to those who haven’t heard. Finally, Patrick inspires me because he answered God’s calling in his life to be an evangelist to Ireland. When his critics were asked why Patrick returned to Ireland, they replied “He was compelled by God and called by the need of Irish.” If Patrick had not listened to God’s call for his return to Ireland, many Anglo-Americans would have a different life than the one they have today.
Although St. Patrick lived 1600 years ago as a contemporary of St. Augustine, his life and works still have an impact on not only Irish culture but also on the entirety of Christianity. So when you pull out your green this year and watch the parades (or pinch people for not wearing green), remember this incredible story about a man who followed God to a barbarian land and evangelized an entire country. To find out more about St. Patrick, his life and writings, check out the articles “St. Patrick in Fact and Fiction” by A. Haire Forster and “’Ego Patricius, peccator rusticissimus’: The Rhetoric of St. Patrick of Ireland” by Paul Lynch. You can search for these articles on Ebscohost and also the various books in the Library about St. Patrick.