Saint Patrick’s Message for Us Today

Saint Patrick’s Message for Us Today

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Today the city of Newport, RI, where I live, holds their annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade. I will don a green shirt and go to my friend Janet Fahey’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade party. Today, as I write this, I can smell the corned beef and cabbage cooking on the stove. After all, “Irish” came out as my second highest ethnicity in the ancestry.com DNA test., after Swedish.

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What IS saint Patrick’s Day about, and does it have a message for us today?
Saint Patrick was an actual person, who most people believe lived from 385-461 CE. In my many books of the lives of Saints I have read that he was actually of British lineage, and was kidnapped by Irish pirates when he was just sixteen years old. He spent six years as a prisoner in Ireland, serving as a shepherd. In his Confessions, he writes that it was during this difficult time that he deepened his relationship with God and became a Christian. One night in a vision, he was told that he would return home. He escaped, and boarded a ship which returned him to his native Britain. He was ordained a priest. He had another dream, where he felt entreated to return to Ireland,  as a missionary. He eventually became the bishop of Ireland. By the seventh century he was considered the Patron Saint of Ireland. He used things native to Ireland and important to the people to teach them about Christianity. For example, he used the three-leafed Shamrock to teach them about the Trinity.

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Ireland has no snakes. Saint Patrick in art and legend is celebrated as the one who banished snakes from Ireland, and cast them into the sea.

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My favorite thing about Saint Patrick is the powerful hymn (song) or prayer, which is said to have been taken from his breastplate:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

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For us today Saint Patrick can serve as a powerful example. First, he is an example of one who used the most difficult experience of his life to strengthen his faith and deepen his relationship with God. While many of us crumble and despair during difficult times, others, like Saint Patrick, use their difficulties to strengthen their spirits. Secondly, his is an example for us today of forgiveness. Even though he had been captured and imprisoned by Irish pirates, he nevertheless returned to the very place of his enslavement, to share the good news of the new life he himself had found in Christ.

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How many of us would be more effective in sharing our faith and creating mutual understanding, respect, and peace, if we were able to forgive our enemies and move forward? Finally, he incorporated things that were native to Ireland and part of the Irish people’s daily lives into his teaching, like the Shamrock as a symbol of the Trinity, the Sea and green fertile countryside as images of God’s presence, and the fact of Ireland having no snakes to demonstrate how God can banish the things we most fear from our lives. So often we fail to honor the things that are held dear to people’s hearts, and try to impose our own ways upon others. Patrick, instead, connected the things he wanted to teach people with things they valued in their own daily lives.

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This Saint Patrick’s Day, may we learn from the example of this great Saint.

This day, may you see the Holy in all you encounter,
and may you reflect the Holy to all you encounter.

Linda Forsberg, Copyright March 17, 2015; edited March 17, 2018

(header photo:  Linda with statue of Saint Patrick, Hill of Tara, Ireland; other photos:  Janet Fahey and Wayne Colombe; Linda atop the hill of Tara, and a little girl running up to join me, Ireland)

3 thoughts on “Saint Patrick’s Message for Us Today”

  1. Being an Irish gal myself I never knew this about my namesake (I was to be Patrick if I was a boy ). Great story and God love the Irish :))

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