Today, March 17, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Patrick is considered the founder of Christianity in Ireland and is venerated as its patron saint. He was born in Britain in the fifth century, was captured by Irish pirates when he was 16 years old and taken to Ireland as a slave. Before being captured, he had no interest in God, but in captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He worked as a shepherd and that quiet time in nature must have been conducive to his spiritual development.
After six years, Patrick escaped and, through great difficulty, made his way home to Britain, where he devoted his time to studying Christianity. He was ordained as a priest, and after a few years, he had a vision that he was being called back to Ireland to bring Christianity to the pagans.
What I find fascinating about the story of Patrick's life is that, despite going through such heartbreak and trauma from his kidnapping and slavery, he responded to the vision of being called back to Ireland. He left his home again -- this time by choice -- and returned to the land where he previously had been held captive. As a shepherd, he had discovered his spiritual connection to God. As a priest, he shared that spiritual connection to God with the people who formerly held him captive.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by parades, wearing of green, Irish traditional music sessions called ceili and pouring green dye into some city rivers. It also is celebrated by drinking beer -- also sometimes dyed green. In the Christian tradition, this is the season of Lent, and traditionally, the church encouraged abstinence from alcohol during these 40 days. However, that ban was lifted for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, which probably made drinking on March 17 all that much more attractive.
Like so many holy days, it seems that St. Patrick's Day has become commercialized and has lost its spiritual roots. But I would invite you -- while you are wearing your green clothes, sporting your sparkling shamrock pin and drinking a toast to Ireland with your green beer -- to take a few moments to contemplate Patrick's life and consider some of these questions.
• Patrick had no interest in God during his youth in Britain. When in my life have I felt disconnected from my own spirituality or whatever it is that I consider transcendent? What did that feel like? What kind of a person was I?
• Patrick turned to God and prayer in captivity as a slave. Have there been trials and tribulations in my life when I turned to God? Have I had any periods in my life that felt like captivity or slavery to something?
• Patrick returned to Ireland to minister. Have I found my ministry -- my unique way to serve? Is there something about my own history or my own woundedness that could be transformed into serving others?
NAN Religion on 03/17/2018
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