Today (17th March) is St Patrick’s Day. St Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. He’s a reminder that one man can make a difference to an entire nation. St Patrick’s Day nowadays may be an excuse for many to be involved in drunken revelry, but the meaning behind the celebration of this day has lessons for us all. It’s not all about Guinness and shamrocks!
Patrick (probably living in the 5th century) was born in Britain, and aged 16 was taken from his father’s villa by Irish raiders and sold into slavery. He spent six bleak years in Ireland as a herdsman before escaping and returning to Britain. It may seem astonishing to us that after such an experience he would return to the land of his captivity, but following a vision calling him back there, he did return., It is another example to us of how God uses even misfortune and persecution to bring about His will; it’s doubtful that Patrick would have ever gone to Ireland of his own accord, but this series of circumstances led to his lifework.
Patrick was keenly aware of his lack of learning and struggled to believe God could use him, but he worked with zeal and fervour and saw many become Christians. He exercises a powerful ministry which saw many healed and even raised from the dead. As always, he demonstrated the truth that when we are weak, then God can be strong! (2 Cor 12:9, 1 Cor 2:1-5).
It’s easy for people to become legends and for the stories surrounding them to be embellished and for us therefore to doubt the veracity of these stories. The truth remains that Christianity was spread far and wide through the zeal of individuals and through the power of the Holy Spirit. These people’s zeal and surrender to God surely inspire us to greater service. Today, as we think of St Patrick, may we too know faithfulness, obedience and zeal and may we hear His voice calling us, confirming our calling and leading us to walk in the Spirit as Patrick did.