I used to really, genuinely dislike St. Patrick’s Day. I didn’t get it. We all have to wear green or people will go around pinching us, I went to a St. Patrick’s Day party once and it was awful, and I just didn’t understand the appeal because it seemed like such a lame holiday to me.
However, that was before I knew the history behind it. And now I have a new respect for the day and what it means. Has it been a bit distorted by culture? For sure! But anything is redeemable, and I think we can still appreciate the true meaning behind it and celebrate the man who was St. Patrick.
At sixteen years old, St. Patrick was captured and taken to Ireland as a slave. In the midst of the pain, bitterness, frustration, and horror of slavery, he turned to the faith he had once ignored to help. St. Patrick spent six years in bondage and in faithful prayer of escape. One day, after receiving what he believed was a vision from God, he did escape and fled back to his home.
Years later, St. Patrick returned to the people who once enslaved him because he was burdened to share the good news of the Savior who had changed his life, changed his heart, and been faithful to him through it all.
Though St. Patrick did not convert the people of Ireland to faith on his own, he did win many souls to his faith.
Though this is only a brief synopsis of a rich story of compassion and selflessness, I think there’s so much we can learn from St. Patrick. One of which is that we may not always understand the people we serve. But, we don’t have to understand them to love them, to be there for them, and to walk through life with them.
I grew up in a developed country in a middle-class family. I never had to walk miles every day to retrieve water for my family. Education was a right not a privilege. I was so very blessed, and I am truly thankful. Seeing people in the developing world with these struggles definitely burdens me to do good and to help in partnering with them so they can have access to clean water and education. But I don’t fully understand them or their frame of reference.
But I can listen, I can learn, I can observe, I can be taught. I can go out of my way to make strides in meeting them where they are and trying to understand what they have walked through to better partner with them in moving forward. And so can you!
As you celebrate this random, sometimes strange holiday, try to remember the reason we celebrate: the amazing man who ministered to those who not only enslaved him but those he didn’t understand.