Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s Talk About My Favorite Saint!
It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m rocking a nice emerald green shirt today. I’ve always been fond of St. Patrick’s Day because I love the color green. I hope all of you are having as fun a St. Pattie’s day as I am!
Now I’m not Catholic, but of all the Catholic saints I’ve read about I’d have to say that St. Patrick is my favorite. Why? Let me tell you.
St. Patrick was born to a Roman family living in Roman occupied England. This was late in the life of the Roman Empire and Patrick’s families were Christians. Patrick was a nominal Christian, but didn’t have a particularly strong belief. Life was probably pretty decent for Patrick growing up, until in the middle of his adolescence he was kidnapped by barbarians from Ireland. Ireland at this point in history was a primitive place full of warring tribes that often sailed over to England to raid and take back slaves. Patrick became such a slave and spent the next six years stranded in the middle of nowhere herding a barbarian’s sheep and trying to survive as best he could. During that time he became close to God, and gained a serious conviction in the truth of Christianity. He managed to escape Ireland and made his way back home where he joined the priesthood.
He spent several years studying when he had a dream where a voice was calling to him from Ireland saying “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” Convinced that it was God’s will he traveled to Ireland and began to teach Christianity to the various clans and tribes. Though simply surviving as a foreigner without protection in Ireland was difficult he made many converts. As the number of Christian Irish grew he set up some as priests and nuns and worked to build up the church on the Emerald Isle. Some of the more historical estimates put him as having established or helped establish 300 churches and winning over 100,000 converts. Patrick essentially built Christianity in Ireland.
This would be cool enough, but the Irish church did some amazing things afterwards! You see the “barbarians” of Ireland, having now been converted began to establish monasteries across Ireland and Scotland. Their scholars learned to read and write and they had a voracious appetite for works of literature and philosophy from the Roman Empire. Thousands of books were brought to Ireland where the monks studied them and copied them. By this time the Roman Empire was on its last legs and the continent feel into the chaos of the Early Middle Ages. Schools were abandoned, books were lost, and people worried more about survival and power than learning and education. Many scholars fled to Ireland where they had heard that monastic schools were flourishing. They brought the intellectual traditions of western civilization with them, and the Irish accepted it with glee. By the time Charlemagne managed to beat things back into shape in France the Irish were known across Europe as scholars and teachers. When Charlemagne set up his system of schools, that later became the universities that fostered education and invention throughout the rest of the Middle Ages , it was scholars from Ireland who came to teach and them and pass on the knowledge they had rescued from the fall of the Roman Empire. So much was preserved and passed on that would have otherwise been lost if it wasn’t for the Irish: and if it wasn’t for St. Patrick the Irish would have remained raiding barbarians instead of becoming peaceful scholars.
St. Patrick’s impact, and the impact of the early Irish church, can still be felt today. One man’s dedication to Christ had consequences that still reverberate over 1,500 years later.
And that’s why St. Patrick is my favorite saint. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!