Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Truth About St. Patrick

Spring hasn't officially started yet in the northern hemisphere, but nature – which doesn't run by our calendars – is already showing signs of renewing and growth. Many parts of the world observe trees blossoming, squirrels and other animals awakening and snow melting away. Also, we're rapidly approaching the holiday known as St. Patrick's Day which is celebrated on March 17! To celebrate, we're devoting today's article to St. Patrick himself. In fact, he's the topic! But before we get to that, let's take a look at our “usuals”.

Days till:
It is: 11 days till St. Patrick's Day
It is: 14 days till Spring
It is: 38 days till Palm Sunday
It is: 43 days till the Friday performance of "The King on a Cross"
It is: 45 days till Easter

In the Spotlight:
Unfortunately, there wasn't really anything to report on this week concerning the movie's I've been following.

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Note from Author: Last year, you might recall that my computer started acting up, so I wasn't able to publish any articles for several weeks and completely missed the St. Patrick's Day article I already had written. Well, now that that time of year is rolling around again, I can finally publish it and you can finally read it!

Since St. Patrick’s Day is coming around fast (March 17 to be precise!), I thought this article should be devoted to St. Patrick himself. Now a lot of myths have built up around St. Patrick over the years. Take the guy's name for instance: “ST. Patrick”? Now, a lot of people instantly connect the word “saint” to Catholicism, and St. Patrick is very respected among Catholics. But . . . is St. Patrick really Catholic? Another common myth is that St. Patrick is the man responsible for the absence of snakes on Ireland. Yet, there is no evidence for these reptiles were even on the island in the first place (the only native reptile to live on Ireland is the viviparous lizard). Today I plan to split truth from fiction and give a good understanding of this poorly misunderstood man and give you an understanding of this great God-fearing man.

Many myths have formed about St. Patrick over the years, including the one where he banished all the snakes from Ireland.
The Viviparous lizard, Ireland's only native terrestrial reptile, is unique because they bear live young instead of eggs, hence their name.
Ok, for starters, throw the idea that St. Patrick is Irish out of your head. He’s NOT Irish! And he was a real, historical person, who was born in 373 A.D. in Roman Britain, which is now a part of Scotland. Here, life was good for young Patrick. But at this time, his name wasn’t Patrick – it was Mawensucatt (a really weird name), but for communication purposes, most time I refer to him, I’ll just call him “Patrick”. Patrick spent most of his life in Scotland, so how on earth did he get known as Irish? Well, that all started when he turned 16 years of age and was kidnapped by a band of pirates who sold him to a chieftain in Northern Ireland as a slave.

Patrick was kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave in Ireland, where he remained the rest of his youth.
Now sold into slavery, he was forced to work in the fields as a shepherd. But during this time, something wonderful happened: he turned from his sinful ways and turned toward Christ – he became a believer! Here is his testimony about this experience:
before I was humbled, I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in His mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout in gratitude to the Lord for His great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.
So even during this bad situation, St. Patrick made the best of things and seeing himself in the depths of sin, called upon Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of his life and he became a Christian. And keep in mind that turning into a Christian probably wasn’t the most popular thing to do in Ireland at the time because the main religion there was paganism. But despite this, in no time at all young Patrick was praying daily . . . actually “praying daily” might be considered an understatement, as he said that:
More and more did the love of God, and my fear of Him and faith increase, and my spirit was so moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.
St. Patrick worked as a slave in Ireland for about six years, and after he turned 22 years of age, he believed that it was time to do something that a lot of people would probably try to do as well: pack your bags and hightail out of there! Patrick endured a tough journey over the sea and land but, he was able to return to his own people back in Scotland. They apparently had really missed Patrick and remembered him well, because after returning to Scotland, they wanted him to stay and treated him as a son.

Our ole’ pall Patrick was living a good life back in Scotland. I mean, the people he lived with were as close to him as brothers and sisters. But this was when St. Patrick experienced a life changing circumstance (as did Paul, Abraham, Noah, the Apostles and Moses). One night, Patrick had a strange dream in which a man on his way from Ireland was carrying many letters. The man gave Patrick one of the letters and he read it. As he read the letter, it seemed to him that the Irish were literally calling out to Patrick saying:
We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and walk again among us.”
He had a few similar dreams following this one. One thing became clear – God wanted St. Patrick to return to Ireland and spread the Gospel! This was the land where he had been sold as a slave, so why on earth would he go back? The answer is simple: God wanted him to teach others about Christ!

At around the age of 30, St. Patrick left Scotland with a few brothers in Christ to go to Ireland as a missionary and arrived on the shores of Ireland in 405 A.D. Here, he started preaching the gospel. However (there’s always a “however” to a good story isn’t there?), missionary work is not without its trials. News of Patrick’s success in preaching God’s truth reached Rome, a man by the name of Pope Celestine sent  a man named Palladius to act as a bishop to get the churches back in the power of the Papacy. Then in 432, around 27 years after Patrick’s missionary instruction from God, Palladius arrived in Ireland. Unfortunately for him, God had given Patrick much success. So much so that Palladius was unable to get the newly Christian churches to believe his message of subservience to the Bishop of Rome. Palladius was in fact, so deeply discouraged by this, that he and his group left Ireland and set sail for elsewhere. St. Patrick on the other hand continued to teach the gospel to the Irish.

St. Patrick must have strolled by green hills such as these on his missionary journeys.
Here comes the really interesting part. St. Patrick is often seen as a catholic figure, right? But in many of his writings, he makes it clear that he believed he was a sinner. He looked to Christ Jesus for personal comfort and courage. Now, if St. Patrick was catholic, he would have, even at this time, would have believed that rituals and good works were necessary for salvation. Patrick was firmly believed that he was “a sinner saved by grace”, and that grace is by Jesus Christ. So what Patrick wished to teach Ireland was completely against the catholic religion! Also, contrary to what many people would like to think, Patrick was not a member of the Roman Catholic Church. He never mentioned those churches doctrines about the Pope, Masses, the virgin Mary or Purgatory and instead was brought the truth of the gospel to Ireland. Did you know that he even used objects the Irish were familiar with to get the message across? One example is that to explain the Trinity being one God in Three Persons – God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit – it is believed he used a shamrock (which is why St. Patrick is often seen with shamrocks in pictures). A shamrock has three leaves on the same plant, just as God is three Persons, and yet the same all at the same time!

Despite being considered a Catholic figure, St. Patrick's beliefs were against Catholicism.
Though being a missionary was not without its difficulties, Patrick had many successes. He baptized thousands of people who had decided to follow Christ and become Christians. Patrick’s ministry lasted around 60 years and he went all across Ireland to preach the Good News of Christ. When it was all said and done, Patrick is believed to have started 365 churches across Ireland. Another distinguishing feature of St. Patrick is that he set up churches with pastors of service, instead of lording over the people like other religions might do.

St. Patrick lived a long, long time for people of this age. He died at the age of 73, but no one is exactly sure of the date of his birth or death. Many believe the date of his death to be March 17th. This is why St. Patrick’s Day takes place on this day. So as St. Patrick’s Day draws ever nearer, let’s remember this amazing Spirit-fueled man as the amazing missionary he was. A man who loved Ireland and loved Christ Jesus. Despite the how crazy it sounded, he followed God’s calling and went back to Ireland where he was sold as a slave. Let this be a lesson to each and every one of us. For us who are born-again Christians: we should follow God’s will for us, even if it sounds a little strange and in the words of my Day, “Be His will”. You won’t regret it!

For those of you who aren’t born-again Christians, I do pray that you would convert from your life without Christ and instead run to Jesus Christ so you can follow his will for your life, just as St. Patrick did hundreds of years before. If you are interested in doing this, please see the "ABC's of Becoming a Christian" at the top of the page.

Here are a few words from St. Patrick himself in closing:

I, alone, can do nothing unless He [God] Himself vouchsafes [gives] it to me. But let Him search my heart and [my] nature, for I crave enough of it, even too much, and I am ready for Him to grant me that I drink of his chalice, as He has granted to others who love Him. Therefore, may it never befall me to be separated by my God from His people whom He has won in this most remote land. I pray that He gives perseverance, and that He will deign that I should be a faithful witness for His sake right up to the time of my passing.
The next time you see a shamrock, let it remind you about how St. Patrick probably used this plant to explain the gospel to the Irish.
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