Misconceptions and Exaggerations:
Most of the assumptions people make about Saint Patrick are not actually true. For example, he wasn’t born in Ireland, and his birthday wasn’t on March 17th. His name wasn’t even Patrick until he changed it in his later years. Contrary to popular belief, Saint Patrick didn’t have “magic powers” that he used to drive out all of the snakes in Ireland (Ireland never had snakes in the first place- too cold). These, and many other misconceptions and legends have grown about the man we know today as Saint Patrick. So, let’s take a look at the real Saint Patrick, a man who actually existed in history.
Maewyn Succat (who took the name Patrick later in life) was born in Britain in the fifth century. When he was 16, his village was raided by Irish marauders who kidnapped him, took him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. As a slave, Patrick spent six years in forced labor, and often went without food and clothing. He then turned from the pagan religion he had been practicing to the One True God, escaped from slavery and returned to his family in Britain.
During Patrick’s time as a slave in Ireland, he learned about the many things that were more important to the Irish than God was: the sun, idols, false gods and nature, among others. Yet Patrick knew that the true God deserved to be people’s top priority. So, after several years in Britain, he returned to Ireland (voluntarily this time) determined to spend the rest of his life there, helping people put God where He deserved to be in their lives. Patrick shared the Good News all across Ireland that there was a real God who loved them personally, and was more than willing to forgive them of all their wrongs- including all of the times they worshiped other things and had other priorities above God. Over the years, his efforts (which continued in the midst of death threats, beatings, robbery and imprisonments) had a tremendous impact: Patrick started over 300 churches and baptized 120,000 people (out of the population of 300,000)! Even after Patrick’s death, many people whom he had impacted went on to spread his same message all across Europe.
How would the real Saint Patrick relate to us today? Chances are, you probably don’t bow down and worship statutes. But, you may “worship” something else. Worship, according to Webster, is something you are devoted to, or something you really admire a lot. What is it that you think about most in your life? What is it that gets you more excited than anything else? Is it sex? Money? Getting people’s approval, or their respect? If there’s anything in your life (regardless of what it is) that is a higher priority to you than Jesus Christ, then that thing is an idol in your life. That is what you worship.
The Good News is that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, so that anyone who believes in Him, would not perish, but have eternal life. Anyone who believes in Him will receive eternal life! That includes idol worshipers like you and me. Saint Patrick would probably tell us the same thing today that he told others in his day. “Put Christ first in your life. He loves you. He died for you. There’s no need to frantically pursue counterfeit things when the Real Deal offers you His unconditional love.”
Thanks for reading and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
P.S. If you’re interested in reading Saint Patrick’s short autobiography for yourself, you can read it online for free at www.confessio.ie. Historians agree that these writings are the best sources for knowing what Saint Patrick, the man of history, was really like.