>> Monday, March 16, 2009
Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig
Although many may not believe it, St. Patrick's Day is not about drinking green beer. Nor is it about food, though it is called his Feast Day.
St. Patrick's Day celebrates Ireland's patron saint, who baptized thousands, explained the Trinity using a clover and converting pagan kings to Christianity.
From Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization :
Back in the 5th century, the Irish Celts were unevangelized, extremely barbaric, cannibals, slave traders, and participated in human sacrifices. They would sail across the channel to England at night and kidnap people that would be good for slaves or concubines and would kill the rest. They would then drink their victims’ blood and would take their skulls back with them to use as drinking cups.
On one of these kidnapping voyages, they captured a 16 year old boy and took him back to be a slave. This boy came from a Christian family. During his slavery, he began to pray and his faith grew tremendously. One night, he received a vision from God where he saw a ship and heard God say “Your ship is on the shore. Go get on it!”. This boy knew being caught trying to escape would be certain death, but his faith was great and he walked 200 miles to the coastline. He was not captured, and sure enough, there was a ship ready to set sail. He convinced the sailors to let him on board. At sea, they shipwrecked and ended up landing somewhere in France. They wandered around with no food. The sailors finally asked this boy, “If your God is so great, pray and ask Him to give us some food so we don’t die!” The boy responded, “No, I will not pray for you. You fall on your knees and confess God as the only true God and then ask Him yourself!” They did, and God sent a herd of swine over the hill to provide food for them.
The boy ended up in a monastery in France where he became a student of the Bible and the Christian faith. He eventually returned to his home in England. One night, he saw another vision, this time it was the face of an Irishman that he recognized, and this Irishman said “Holy child, come walk with us once more!” He understood that God was calling him to return to Ireland to bring the gospel to them. His family was livid when he explained this to them, telling him that they would surely kill him on the spot and eat him. But he told them that he had to go. He knew their language and he knew their culture. Consequently, he knew how to win them to Christ.
He ended up going to Ireland with a couple of his friends. He was not killed; in fact, he ended up leading thousands of Irish Celts to Christ. By the end of this man’s life, God used him so mightily to transform this nation, that the Irish were the first nation to abolish slavery. He planted over 700 churches, trained 3000 pastors, and performed 100,000 baptisms!
St. Patrick gathered the converts into monasteries to teach them the Scriptures and train them in evangelism. These Irish monks copied the Scriptures and also Roman and Greek classics, such as Homer’s writings. Without these numerous copies by the Irish, it is doubtful these classics would have survived the destruction the barbarians brought to the Roman Empire. Some even go as far as to say that the Irish saved civilization. After the Roman Empire fell to the godless barbarians, it was these Irish monks that brought Christianity and civilization back to Europe. In fact, they went to Rome and taught the Romans trade skills and Latin! It’s hard to believe that the Irish had to re-teach the Romans their own language and the advanced skills the Romans were known for! It goes to show how devastating the fall of the Roman Empire was to Rome, and how quickly they went from powerful to nothing.
Tradition states that Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. While Ireland probably had no actual snakes on its shores, the story may have a ring of truth to it. Snakes often represent evil (and quite often, Satan) in literature. By stating that Patrick "drove out the snakes" is symbolically stating that he drove out Pagan practices and brought in a new age of religion.
While you're thinking of all things Irish head over to Have Kid Will Travel and check out my Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade post. And take a virtual tour with my Ireland posts.