Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patty

Who is this legend, this one whose remembrance requires us to wear green clothing lest we be pinched? And why does he have a whole day on our calendar? Oddly enough, this question never occurred to me before this year. I've asked many people this question over the last few days, and everyone is just as stumped. Nobody knows about this mysterious hero, but everyone's green glasses will be raised high tomorrow regardless.

Curiosity led me to wikipedia, and after thorough study I discovered that St. Patrick's father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest. A native of Banna Venta Berniae, Saint Patrick was kidnapped at sixteen and brought to Ireland as a slave. He fled six years later in response to a voice he heard telling him to return home. Several years after that, he saw a vision, in which a letter was delivered to him from the people of Ireland saying, "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us." What did he do? He went to Ireland as a missionary. Yes, our brave Patrick went to Ireland and baptized thousands, converting wealthy women to nuns, ordaining priests to lead new Christian communities and converting sons of kings. He is said to have encouraged the slaves and the poor to vows of monastic chastity. The churches tied to his ministry were still expanding their influence throughout Ireland two centuries after his death.

Saint Patrick was one of the earliest missionaries to minister abroad. He explained the Trinity to the Irish using the Shamrock, and has thus inspired centuries of missionaries to explore the best evangelism techniques. One major barrier for Patrick: he didn't speak the language of the Irish, and translators were very limited. So he lived by example, both for the Irish during his day and for missionaries that would follow -- learn the language before going foreign. March 17 is recognized as the day of his death and is now celebrated as his feast day.

So there you have it: the reason for green on March 17. Tomorrow I will enjoy traditional Irish fare and bask in the...happy...celebration of St. Patrick's life. Happy St. Patrick's Day :)

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