Good afternoon Willow Brook family,
As today begins with the anticipation of green attire, festive parties, college basketball, rainbow-directed treasures, and perhaps beckons towards an end-of-the-day tall, green pint of ale, I thought it might helpful to pause for a moment and offer a reflection on this day that we have chosen to honor Patrick – and all things Irish. Patrick is a saint after all!
A few years ago, my family had the good fortune of spending a couple of weeks in Ireland, and it is impossible to ignore the remnants of the rich Christian faith that surrounds you everywhere on the island. From the famed Celtic crosses to the stunning ancient cathedrals, Christianity is ubiquitous in Ireland. Trinity College in Dublin houses one of the most amazing copies of the Bible ever created – it’s called the Book of Kells. If you have a minute today, check it out – you can view the entire book online!
If you don’t know the story of St. Patrick, you may not realize that the Christian tradition we associate with Ireland is almost entirely due to the work of St. Patrick. Prior to his arrival on the island (around 432 – it’s been awhile!) there is only one reference to Christianity in Ireland. Your fun fact for today can be that St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish! He actually was born and raised in England, before being stolen away and sent to Ireland to work as a slave for six years. After six years, he escaped and eventually made it back to his family in England who thought that he had died. The amazing story of Patrick is that his deep faith in God compelled him to go back to the Island of his captors and tell them the good news about Jesus (Good news that he had heard about as a child, but only came to believe later in his life.). Incredibly, the Irish were overwhelmingly receptive to the Christian faith and there is not a single report of a martyr during his ministry there.
St. Patrick was "a man of simple and steadfast faith, humble, hard-working and courageous, with an especially deep and reverential love for his God..."
One biographer describes Patrick this way: “a man of simple and steadfast faith, humble, hard-working and courageous, with an especially deep and reverential love for his God, a man who never ceased to marvel at having been chosen for such a demanding and rewarding task as the conversion of the Irish.” He begins his famous autobiography with these words: “I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many.” It is stunning to think of someone so humble and so inconsequential (we aren’t even exactly sure where he was born) could have had such an amazing impact on the world. I suppose there is still hope for us all!
As you enjoy your parties, corned beef and green beer helping take your mind off the vagaries of today, be inspired by the life of someone who wasn’t any different than any of us, but who took his faith in God seriously enough to make everything in his life flow from his conviction. He ends his Confessions with this plea:
“My final prayer is that all of you who believe in God and respect him – whoever you may be who read this letter that Patrick the unlearned sinner wrote from Ireland – that none of you will ever say that I in my ignorance did anything for God. You must understand – because it is the truth – that it was all the gift of God.”
You and I all have that same gift of God in our life – go now, and allow that gift to flow through you and bless those you are honored to serve today. God bless you all, and may God be blessed through you all!
Willow Brook Christian Communities