Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Patrick Matters

Were I to make a top ten list of "rebel pilgrims" St. Patrick would certainly make the cut. He was in many ways a rebel against the Roman church structure - his missional mandate from God was often getting him in trouble with the church system half a world away in Rome. He was also clearly rebelling against the traditional religion and beliefs of the Irish people...being the first to introduce them to the story of Jesus. Beyond that, he was also a pilgrim - a wandering foreigner in a strange country. As you may know, Patrick was not Irish at all. He was from Wales and taken as a slave to Ireland. At an early age he escaped his captors and found his way back home, only to be called by God to return to Ireland in a dream. He went back to Ireland immediately as a missionary, never to return home.

Patrick only has two small written documents that have survived. Here is a short piece from A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus:

"I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that all that I am, I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God...If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them look down on me...

Could I have come to Ireland without thought of God, merely in my own interest? Who was it made me come? For here I am a prisoner of the Spirit so that I may not see any of my family. Can it be out of the kindness of my heart that I carry out such a labor of mercy on a people who once captured me when they wrecked my father's house and carried off his servants? In short, I am a slave in Christ to this faraway people for the indescribable glory of everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Countless myths and legends surround this man. Some may even be accurate...but what we know without doubt is that he was a missionary consumed with the story of Jesus and his love for a people who first hated him. We could do worse on his day then to ask God for that same sort of love and passion for the city we call home.


ylmurph said...

well said my friend

Steve Fuller said...

You and Chris Day seem to be on the same wavelength this week.

God help you.

Unknown said...

Pretty amazing to read his bio and realize that "St. Patrick's Day" has turned into a day of celebration with eating cabbage and corned beef and too much Guinness... thanks for the challenge. God love ya!