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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Let's Get It Right

With a name like Kelly, St. Patrick's day has always been a fun one for me. Green is my favorite color, and my eyes are green too, so I have always been able to get through St. Patty's day unscathed (and un-pinched!)

Yet it's only in the last few years, as I have seen the holiday reduced to yet another reason for the world to get roaring drunk ~ this time on green beer ~ that I have tried to find out the real meaning behind St. Patrick's Day.

Rather than rehearse all the history here, feel free to spend a few minutes surfing around the internet. But these three things stand out to me:

Do you know that according to legend, Saint Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish people? I mean, WOW.

That the story of Patrick is that of a brave missionary? This is what I read this morning in my devotional:
At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped from his home by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland, where he was sold as a slave to a chieftain and forced to herd livestock. After six years of slavery, Patrick escaped to his native Britain. Because he believed that his captivity and deliverance were ordained by God, Patrick devoted his life to ministry. While studying for the priesthood, he experienced recurring dreams in which he heard voices say, “O holy youth, come back to Erin and walk once more amongst us.” He convinced his superiors to let him return to Ireland in 432, not to seek revenge for injustice but to seek reconciliation and to spread his faith. Over the next thirty years, Patrick established churches and monastic communities across Ireland. When he was not engaged in the work of spreading the Christian faith, Patrick spent his time praying in his favorite places of solitude and retreat.

Finally, there is an absolutely lovely prayer attributed to Patrick. I'm going to memorize it:

Christ be with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

In a recent prayer I memorized during Christmas and the New Year, once sentence hit me over and over:
"Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go."
St. Patrick is a stunning example of that, and we have collectively lost sight of that faithful, historic, world-changing witness. On this St. Patrick's Day, let's put St. Patrick back where he belongs, and look for ways to gently inform others of the meaning behind this true "holy-day."

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