Right off, categorize the snake story as myth.
In 1845, his birthday, March 17, began to be celebrated as a festive holiday known as Saint Patrick’s Day. It has since become known as “a great day for the Irish.”
He was born an Anglo-Saxon in southwestern Britain under Roman rule in 389 A.D. In 405 A.D., while working on his father’s farm, he was captured by Irish raiders and sold as a slave. As a young swine herdsman in Ulster, he experienced extreme hardship and loneliness. He witnessed and experienced the cruel pagan Irish way of life that characterized the era. The trauma of hearing the screams of a young prince being roasted alive impacted his life dramatically. His harsh years in Ireland brought him to a deep personal faith in Christ.
In 411 A.D., while praying, his understanding was illumined as to how to escape. At age 22, he escaped by ship to France and back to be reunited with his family in Britain. One year later, he returned to France and studied with Germanus at Auxerre. Though by no means a scholar St. Patrick was a devotee to his Lord. He was self-conscious of his lack of academic ability and did little writing until late in life.
In 432 A.D., he turned aside the appeal of his parents not to return to Ireland, where he served as a Christian missionary until 462 A.D. It is said he “found Ireland all heathen and left it all Christian.” He established over 300 churches and baptized more than 120,000. His rustic simplicity and spiritual sincerity prevailed.
He disregarded all obstacles, his fears, and hesitations to serve the people who had persecuted him as a slave in his youth. Upon hearing of his return, his former slave master, Millucc, committed suicide out of fear.
St. Patrick is characterized by courage and persistent devotion. He prayed for and ministered to King Loegaire (pronounced Leery), who ultimately converted to Christianity and thus opened the national door to the gospel.
Popularized Irish Blessings have grown to be a tradition.
A pithy witty blessing states, “As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction.”
Other blessings are more beautiful and rich with meaning such as the one that follows which has been adapted by Phil Coltier and set to music by Roma Downey. It is offered as my blessing on your behalf.
“May the blessing of light be upon you,
Light on the outside, light on the inside.
May the light of the Lord shine from your eyes
like a candle in the window welcoming a weary traveler.
May the blessing of God’s earth be on you, and as you walk the roads
may you always heave a kind word for those you meet.
May you understand the strength and power of God
in a thunderstorm in winter, and the quiet beauty of creation
in the calm of a summer sunset.
And may you come to realize that insignificant as you may seem
in this great universe, you ‘are’ an important part of God’s plan.
May He watch over you and keep you safe from harm.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.