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March 17 – Patrick

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Acts 2:14-24 

What you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.

Patrick on the hill

More thoughts for meditation about Patrick of Ireland

Because Patrick lived so long ago some of his life remains a mystery to us. For instance, his death is believed to have been on this day in about 493 AD, but the date is controversial. We do know that he was born into a wealthy family in Britain, to a father who was a Christian deacon. We do not have evidence about Patrick being faithful himself as a child. When he was sixteen, he was captured by a group of Irish raiders and taken back to Ireland as a slave where he remained for the next six years. He worked as a shepherd, an isolated life, and turned to his faith during this  period, becoming very devout. After six years in slavery, he escaped. According to his writings, he ran away after God spoke to him through a dream. He further reported how he experienced another revelation from an angel in a dream, once he had returned home, telling him to go back to Ireland in order to tell those who had been his captors the good news of Jesus.

At this point Patrick began religious studies that lasted fifteen years. When he was ordained a priest he returned to Ireland. Since he was familiar with the language and the culture, Patrick built traditions from Ireland into his lessons about Jesus. He chose not to attack Irish beliefs, but to incorporate certain beliefs and demonstrate how they were fulfilled in Christ. So he superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol of worship, on the cross and created the Celtic cross. He famously used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the concept of the trinity. Patrick had spectacular success in converting the Irish and a body of stories developed around him and his successful evangelism tactics for centuries following his life.

One famous story was incorporated into our celebration of Patrick in 2013 as we lit our own “fires of resistance.” The story goes that Patrick came to the Hill of Slane in County Meath in an early attempt to convert pagan Ireland to Christianity. On the eve of the Christian feast of Easter, 433 A.D. which coincided with the Druid feast of Bealtine (Beal’s fire) and the Spring Equinox, St. Patrick defiantly lit a bonfire on the Hill of Slane. There was a decree that no fire should be lit in the vicinity when the great festival fire of Bealtine blazed at the Royal seat of power on the nearby Hill of Tara, easily visible from Slane.

The lighting of a fire may seem trivial, but at the time it was equivalent to declaring war on the Druid religious leaders and challenging the power of the High King of Ireland. That small act of starting a fire was a turning point in Patrick’s life and in the history of Ireland.  

We remember the courage and love Patrick showed when he returned to those who had “stolen” his youth, and became their servant, bringing the revelation of Jesus to the Irish people. His life is a testament to listening to God, following dreams, and courageously giving witness to what one receives from the Holy Spirit.

Read Patrick’s Confession online!

There are interesting translations of Patrick’s famous prayer: Breastplate.

Patrick TV Bio

Rod’s post-sabbatical speech about Patrick (or his update this year in print)

Suggestions for action

Light a fire! Where is your faith being run over or where is it nonexistent? That is a good place to light a fire in some way. You may not be called to be a dramatic as Patrick (but maybe your are!). But what can you do to give people a chance to know Jesus and escape what enslaves them?

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