In my hometown, St. Patrick’s Day was a really big deal! We all wore green to school unless you forgot in which case I have not-so-great memories of being pinched ALL DAY LONG! That night, our local Irish pub hosted a huge beer festival and parade. Everyone would gather downtown to watch the great processions of men in kilts playing bagpipes. It was so much fun! But in all of those years celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I had no idea that he was a real person and that his history was quite touching.
St. Patrick grew up in the 400s in Britain. He was born into a family of devout Christians; his father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest. When he was only sixteen years old, his village was raided by Irish marauders and he was kidnapped. He was taken by ship to Ireland where he became a slave for six years. During this time, Patrick was forced to herd sheep for a local chieftain which meant that he lived in isolation with very little food or clothing.
Even though Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, he said in his Confessions that he didn’t really know God but that through his sufferings in Ireland, he began to think about God and then speak to God until he was praying hundreds of prayers day and night. Patrick turned to the Christian faith that he had been brought up in and he says that it was the only thing that kept him going through those brutal years.
After six long years of slavery, while he was sleeping one night, Patrick heard a voice telling him that he was about to depart for his homeland and that a ship was ready for him. Patrick knew that God was directing him so he escaped from his slave master and fled two hundred miles until he found the ship. Patrick convinced the ship’s captain to give him passage and three days later, he was back on the shores of his homeland.
He was eventually reunited with his family and there was much rejoicing. Patrick continued his life of prayer and began to study scripture and learn more about his Christian faith. Patrick went to France, where he studied and entered the priesthood under the guidance of the missionary Saint Germain. He was ordained a deacon by the Bishop of Auxerre around 418 AD.
During this time, Patrick had a vision from God in which he heard the voice of the Irish say to him, “We beg you, holy servant boy, to come and walk again among us.” Patrick knew that he was being called by God to return to Ireland. He left Ireland as a slave but would return as a missionary to spread the love of Christ to the lost.
In 432 AD, he was ordained as a bishop and was sent by Pope Celestine I to Ireland to spread the gospel to non-believers while also providing support to the small community of Christians already living there. He did return to Ireland and immediately began sharing the gospel of Jesus with the chiefs and their clans. Patrick already knew the Irish language and their customs which helped him greatly in communicating with the people. For the rest of his life, Patrick traveled throughout Ireland, spreading the good news and converting thousands to the Christian faith.
As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, let us give thanks to God that He is always with us, even amid tremendous hardship. St. Patrick is a powerful example of how God can take our sufferings and use them to help others and to bring them out of darkness into His glorious light!
If you and your family would like a meaningful way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, here are some easy ideas:
Read Genesis 50:20 with your family. Discuss with your children how similar Joseph and St. Patrick were. Talk about how each one suffered and how God used them both to save those around them.
Read the words or listen to the hymn “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” You can Google the words and go over them with your kids or print the words out while you listen to the hymn on Spotify. This is a beautiful prayer of protection believed to have been written by St. Patrick. It was later set to music and is now a beloved Anglican hymn.
Make Irish Soda Bread. This recipe is so good! It requires no rising and can easily be made quickly with the help of your kids!
Read a good book on St. Patrick. Here's a list of my favorite children's books on St. Patrick.