So another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone. It was, as always, a worldwide opportunity to celebrate Irish heritage, eat corn beef, and drink beer.
St. Patrick’s Day isn’t about Patrick. It’s about Ireland, of which the saint is a powerful symbol. The holiday was first celebrated in 1737, by Irish immigrants in Boston. No doubt they were feeling sentimental, as the Irish so often do. Here’s a peculiar fact of what we in America call Irish heritage: Much of it would more accurately be called Irish-American heritage. The immigrants didn’t bring it over; they made it.
Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, but the holiday is mismatched to its name. Think about his story – we all know it well enough. Patrick grew up in England. When he was a youth, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and enslaved in Ireland. In one swoop, they snatched away his family, home, and freedom. There are many wildernesses, and that was his.
And he did what so many have done in the wilderness: He grew close to God. After six years he fled from his master and went home. Many years later, he returned to the land of his slavery, and Ireland was never the same again.
The Druids went down; witchcraft, paganism, and human sacrifice went down. They say that Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland; they are only telling tales. But the Serpent lost a good amount of ground.
Those who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day are not celebrating his triumph over the Druids, let alone the Gospel burning through Ireland like a fire. I won’t say that, if they were, they wouldn’t be drinking beer. But they would drink only in moderation.
In closing, here is an Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.