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What’s The Deal With St. Patty?

After a long day of widespread celebration and Danny Boy singing, one is left to wonder in typical Seinfeldian fashion, “What is the deal with Saint Patrick?”

I ran across an online article that put it pretty accurately: this mythical Saint Patrick had become all things to everyone.

The scarcity of facts about St. Patrick's life has made him a dress-up doll: Anyone can create his own St. Patrick. Ireland's Catholics and Protestants, who have long feuded over him, each have built a St. Patrick in their own image…Outside Ireland, too, Patrick has been freely reinterpreted. Evangelical Protestants claim him as one of their own. After all, he read his Bible, and his faith came to him in visions. Biblical inspiration and personal revelation are Protestant hallmarks. Utah newspapers emphasize that Patrick was a missionary sent overseas to convert the ungodly, an image that resonates in Mormon country. New Age Christians revere Patrick as a virtual patron saint. Patrick co-opted Druid symbols in order to undermine the rival religion, fusing nature and magic with Christian practice. The Irish placed a sun at the center of their cross. "St. Patrick's Breastplate," Patrick's famous prayer (which he certainly did not write) invokes the power of the sun, moon, rocks, and wind, as well as God.

Not included in the article, but perhaps most revealing and forgotten come from Patrick’s own words in his Confession (testimony):

“But this much I know for sure.  Before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in the deep mud.  Then He who is mighty came and, in His mercy, he not only pulled me out but lifted me up and placed me at the very top of the wall.  I must, therefore, speak publicly in order to repay the Lord for such wonderful gifts, gifts for the present and for eternity which the human mind cannot measure.”

The beauty of this testimony of confession, repentance, mercy, and praise is precisely Patrick’s willingness to be a “dress-up doll.”  He is clothed not in Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Mormon, New Age or Druid garb, but rather in and by Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).  This “Humpty Dumpty” tale tells of the Lord’s mercy and grace, faithfulness and generosity.  Patrick is concerned with wearing this on his sleeve, speaking publicly about it, and wrapping his head around the crazy thing that God has done in his life and homeland.

I pray that my life be this transparent.  That I put on Christ, not creating and re-creating myself, but being clothed and formed by Jesus.

Comments

  1. Teaching Celtic Mythology in my Mythology class right now.  The histories of the cultures he touched do use him to further their own points of view, as your writing indicates.  I had not thought of it that way. I love his testimony here, getting to see HIS perspective. 
      " I am become all things to all men, that I may win some to Christ."