Tuesday, March 17, 2015


St Patrick's Day - Child Hassam (1919)
1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12
Matthew 28:16-20
Psalm 97:1-2,7-12 or
Psalm 96:1-7

Patrick (387- 493 or c. 460 AD), the Patron Saint of Ireland, is one of the best known and most widely celebrated Christian saints. Unhappily for him, however, much of this celebration is the result of political, national and cultural associations, as well as commerical opportunities, that have little to do with his life and work. Often, indeed, they serve to divert attention completely away from what was in fact his driving passion -- the great commission Jesus gives to his disciples in the Gospel passage for St Patrick's Day -- "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". Patrick's special commission was to the 'nation' made up of the tribes that populated 5th century Ireland, to which, at the age of sixteen, he had been taken in captivity as a slave.

Many of the associations that 'St Patrick's Day' aims to evoke arose hundreds of years after his death. But legends of all sorts have surrounded this remarkable man almost since the beginning. Fortunately, some authentic documents survive. One is Patrick's own Confessio. Written towards the end of his life, its opening paragraphs read as follows.

"I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favors and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven."
A Legend of St Patrick - Briton Riviere (1877)
And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me.

No comments:

Post a Comment