Religious Reflections

So you think you know the meaning of St. Patrick's Day

by Larry D. Mays

Today is known as St. Patrick's Day. Most people celebrate this day with myths concerning green, lucky clover leafs, blarney stones and leprechauns. None of which have anything to do with the real Saint Patrick. In fact, Saint Patrick was not Irish but Scotch or Brit, or perhaps a little of both. His religious heritage was Celtic Christian, which was part of the early church.

Patrick's name was actually Maewyn Succat. Born to a Christian family around A.D. 380 on the banks of Clyde in Scotland, he was carried off to Ireland by pirates about 376 A.D. "Patrick himself writes in his Confession: 'I, Patrick, ... had Calpornius for my father, a deacon, a son of the late Potitus, the presbyter, who dwelt in the village of Banavan ... I was captured. I was almost sixteen years of age ... and taken to Ireland in captivity with many thousand men." (William Catheart, D.D., The Ancient British and Irish Churches, p. 127). "Here, in slavery, he gave his heart to God and, after six years of servitude, escaped, returning to his home in Scotland. But he could not forget the spiritual need of these poor heathen, and after ten years he returned to Ireland as a missionary of the Celtic church." (ibid, p. 70).

It is Patrick who with several fellow missionaries brought Christianity to Ireland. And that is what he should be remembered for. In an age when for years the Irish have been divided as Protestants and Catholics, skirmishing over territory, political idealism and hatred for each other, perhaps they should follow the lead of their patron saint. He was neither Protestant nor Catholic. But, stood up against superstitious paganism with the Bible, being the standard of his authority. His Celtic ancestry which is said to have descended from the ministry of the apostle John taught the message of love:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:7-11.

I think it would be well for us to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day based on the true nature of his ministry rather than the pagan themes he came to deliver Ireland from. His mission was to declare the good news of salvation (the gospel) and deliverance from the bondage of sin. He taught the people to be law abiding citizens in the Kingdom of God, at peace with all men. I was pleased to learn that he honored the seventh-day Sabbath, which my church affiliation also observes.

So now when you thing of Saint Patrick's Day; instead of a day of lucky charms, try charming someone with an act of kindness, or a pinch of love. Remember Patrick for his mission and message, and try to emulate the spirit of the saint who brought Christianity to Ireland. Perhaps your influence, like Saint Patrick's, will introduce another person to the peace that passes all understanding.

- Larry D. Mays is the Pastor of the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Jennie McGhan • • &

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