Major myth, a lot of mystery, and miracles involve Ireland’s Patron Saint, St. Patrick.
Most people know little about the man.
A lot is known about St. Patrick’s Day, such as, wearing green, green beer, and shamrocks, but little about the man.
He was born an Anglo Saxon in southwestern Britain under Roman rule in 389 A.D.
In 405 A.D., while working on his father’s farm he was captured by Irish raiders and sold as a slave.
As a young swine herdsman in Ulster he experienced extreme hardship and loneliness.
He witnessed and experienced the cruel pagan Irish way of life that characterized the era. The trauma of hearing the screams of a young prince being roasted alive impacted his life dramatically. His harsh years in Ireland brought him to a deep personal faith in Christ.
In 411 A.D., while praying, his understanding was illumined as to how to escape.
At age 22 he escaped by ship to France and back to be reunited with his family in Britain.
One year later he returned to France and studied with Germanus at Auxerre.
Though by no means a scholar he was a devotee to His Lord. He was self-conscious of his lack of academic ability and did little writing until late in life.
In 432 A.D. he turned aside the appeal of his parent and returned to Ireland where he served as a Christian missionary until 462 A.D. It is said he “found Ireland all heathen and left it all Christian.” He established over 300 churches and baptized more than 120,000.
His rustic simplicity and spiritual sincerity prevailed.
It is commonly believed he drove the snakes from Ireland. It is true there are no snakes in Ireland, but not due to him. There never have been snakes in Ireland. It is too chilly. The expression originally was used metaphorically to speak of him driving out paganism and evil from Ireland and introducing Christianity.
He is responsible for the shamrock being associated with Ireland. He used it as an illustration of the Holy Trinity. He taught there are three petals that constitute one shamrock. So the Trinity consists of three in one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit constituting one God. He based this concept on the Scripture in which the church is challenged to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. “Name” singular and the three personages themselves are plural, thus, three in one.
Though not a scholar he hit upon one of the simplest and most brilliant ways of illustrating the complex doctrine of the Trinity.
More recently some have used H2O to illustrate the mystery. As a liquid it is water, as a solid it is ice, as a vapor it is steam — three forms, yet in each form H2O, three in one.
In 1845, his birth day, March 17, was basically a minor religious celebration. In the 1970s it began to be celebrated as a festive holiday known as Saint Patrick’s Day. It has since become known as “a great day for the Irish.”
Disregard the snake story. He dealt with and defeated a greater dragon.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church. For copies of previous columns visit www.nelsonprice.com