Reflection from Kirkwood Chaplain, The Rev. Richard Hanna
On March 17, we will again celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. But do you know his story?
In his teens, the British boy Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave where he was put to work as a shepherd. For six long years, Patrick lived on the mountains with only his sheep for company. The land was bleak and the conditions harsh, but Patrick found solace in his faith. He prayed day and night to the God who brought him comfort during this time.
One night, he heard a voice calling to him, telling him that the time had come to escape. It told him, “See, your ship is ready.” Led by God, Patrick traveled 200 miles until he came to a seaport, where, sure enough, a boat heading for Britain was waiting. But while traveling home, he was captured by a band of thieves, who sold him again into slavery. Desperate, Patrick heard God’s voice reassuring him that in two months, he would be free again.
After sixty days as a slave, God delivered him – and Patrick then spent seven years traveling throughout Europe trying to determine his purpose on earth. Eventually, he decided to become a true servant of God, taking his message throughout the world. After several years of study, he returned to Britain as a priest. But then a voice came to him in a dream – it was the voice of the Irish, who begged him, “We beseech thee, holy boy, to come and walk once more amongst us.”
Suddenly, Patrick knew his purpose in life – he would bring the Christian Gospel to the Irish. He returned to a monastery to continue his studies in preparation. Once made a Bishop in the year 432, he was sent to Ireland.
Patrick and 25 followers arrived in Ireland in the winter of 432. Realizing he had to be bold in his work, he challenged the King of Ireland, and won an audience with him. The King invited him to the Royal Court, and a miracle took place. To prove his powerlessness, his enemies demanded to know whether he could create snow. Sensing a trap, Patrick replied that it was God’s place, not his, to determine the weather. But, amazingly, when the crowd gazed out to the countryside, blankets of snow were cascading down. Patrick, knowing no other course of action, made the sign of the cross, and miraculously the snow disappeared and the sunshine resumed. The King asked Patrick to tell them of the religion he wished Ireland to accept. Patrick explained the Trinity – and many of his listeners laughed at what they believed was a ridiculous concept. One God and three persons. Foolishness!
Patrick, in desperation, prayed to God for inspiration. Looking down he saw a patch of shamrock, and he plucked one from the ground and held it in his hands. “Here,” he said to his audience. “There is one stem, but there are three leaves on it. So it is with the Blessed Trinity. There is one God, but three persons stemming from the same divinity.”
The King was impressed by Patrick’s intelligence and devotion and gave him his blessing to preach the Gospel throughout Ireland. He himself refused to accept Christianity – but he wouldn’t stop Patrick from preaching his religion. Day by day, more converted, and Ireland became a Christian land.
Patrick lived a long and fruitful life, building more than 300 churches in Ireland over his 30 years as a missionary. At the age of 76, Patrick received his eternal reward. He died on March 17th – and to this day, he is honored as the Saint of Ireland and one of the great saints of Christianity!
Like St. Patrick, may we all live in devotion to Christ, sharing the Gospel throughout our communities.
The Traditional Irish Blessing:
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rain fall gently upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may God hold us all in the palm of His hand.