So…It’s Saint Patrick’s Day. Wearing o’ the green, four leaf clovers, Kiss me, I’m Irish, dancing the jig, and green beer. But’s what it all about? What story is behind the seventeenth of March?
For the answer one must venture way back in history. More than 1600 years ago, to be more precise.
His name is Sucant. He was born in Wales, 389 AD near the town of Dunbarton. His dad was a wealthy farmer, his family Christians. At age 16 a raiding party swept through the village and pirated Sucant, gagged and bound, to Ireland as a slave. For six fretful years he tended sheep and watched the men of Eire make sport of cruelty. Whiskey and butchery were their specialty, blood their sacrament.
Sucant, until then a nominal Christian, clung to his faith for solace. “I said 100 prayers by day and almost as many by night,” he wrote.
At age 23 Sucant had a dream. In it he was told to go to a certain beach where a ship waited to take him to safety. He awoke, followed instructions, and sailed to freedom. He settled into a monastery, La Reins, in southern France. There a monk called Germaneous tutored him in Christ and helped him heal from his long ordeal. In 417 AD Sucant became a deacon in the church. He took on the Christian name Patrick, Latin for fatherly.
The story should end there in the quiet cloisters of monastic society. Ah, but Patrick dreamed again! In his vision the Irish pleaded with him, “Come over and help us! Walk among us and teach us Christ!” Patrick wrestled with forgiveness. With his poor education. The church argued about carrying the Gospel of Jesus outside the Latin-speaking world.
But in 432 AD, after fourteen years in the monastery, at 42, Patrick journeyed to Ireland a second time. Over the next 30 years Patrick preached the Gospel, baptized over 120,000 people. He started more than 300 churches, organized schools that saved learning after the rest of Europe collapsed into a Dark Age.
It was March 17 that Patrick died. We remember. Of him today the Irish say, “When he came to us, we were all pagan. When he left, we were all Christian.” In the centuries after his death Irish missionaries from his schools re-carried the Gospel across Europe. And it is likely Irish monks like Brenadin, came to the New World long before Christopher Columbus in 1492.
Today in the USA, Saint Patrick’s Day is a day of wearing green, Celtic music, and beer drinking. In Ireland still, March 17 is a day for going to church and giving thanks for the one God sent to point the way out of misery.
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