Though he didn’t chase the snakes out of Ireland and probably never really used a shamrock to explain the mystery of the Trinity, St. Patrick well deserves to be honored. And not just by the Irish, or those who want to be Irish. (And you know who you are…)
Patrick is perhaps one of the most famous survivors of child trafficking. When he was only 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders from his home in Britain and brought to Ireland as a slave. He spent six years there in slavery, before escaping (by walking over 200 miles to the Irish coast) and returning to Britain on a ship.
After returning home, he had a recurring dream that called him back to Ireland. A man Patrick knew, in Ireland, appeared to him in this dream, holding letters, one of which he handed to Patrick. The letter was entitled “The Voice of the Irish.” Upon reading just the title, he heard a multitude of voices crying out to him: “Holy boy, we beg you to come and walk among us once more.” And you know the rest of the story.
Not surprisingly, Patrick’s own experience in captivity left him with an intense hatred of slavery, and he would later become one of the first human beings in history to speak out unequivocally against it.
Thomas Cahill in his book, “How the Irish Saved Civilization” writes:
“The papacy did not condemn slavery as immoral until the end of the 19th century, but here is Patrick in the fifth century seeing it for what it is. I think that shows enormous insight and courage and a tremendous ‘fellow feeling’—the ability to suffer with other people and to understand what other people’s suffering is like.”
So… what if we did more than just lift a pint to honor the life and work of Saint Patrick? What if we also embraced his understanding of the intrinsic value and great worth of every human being, especially the broken and excluded? What if we had the same tenacity to bring about change? What if we went way beyond dressing in green and downing a Guinness, and decided to not only “understand what other people’s suffering is like”, but to attempt to end that suffering as well?