Let us pray… God of grace and might, we praise You for your servant Patrick, to whom You gave gifts to make the good news known to the people of Ireland. Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 62: 1-7; Psalm 48; Romans 10: 11-17; St. Luke 24: 44-53
Intro: The life dates for Patrick, missionary Bishop to the Irish people are circa 389 to 461. The time period is significant for two reasons. First: this was still the time of the Roman Empire and it was also the time of the fall of the Empire. In Patrick’s lifetime, on August 24th, 410, the Visigoths, under Alaric, attacked and pillaged Rome. For the first time in 800 years Rome had been taken by a foreign enemy. Second: it was not until 1054 that the split occurred between the Roman Catholic Church in Rome and the Eastern Orthodox centered in Constantinople. Patrick lived in the time of the 1,000 years of the unified Church: He was not a Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran saint. He is a Christian Saint. The bio below is interspersed with St. Patrick’s writings. After the Bio, my reflection-Pr. Schroeder
I. Biography: Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain, at an unidentified place. He was the son of alderman and later deacon Calpornius. His grandfather was a priest. St. Patrick was not Irish. He grew up in a Christian household but it was not until dramatic event in his life that Patrick began to take the faith seriously. At age 16, a teenager, he was captured by raiders and enslaved in Ireland. He was a shepherd. From St. Patrick’s own writing, The Confession:
“I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ; he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.
I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people—and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers.”
He was enslaved in Ireland for 6 years. It was during this time he became a Christian. In his enslavement, Patrick was set free.
And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son.
Hence I cannot be silent—nor, indeed, is it expedient—about the great benefits and the great grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this we can give to God in return after having been chastened by Him, to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under the heaven.
So after 6 years Patrick made his escape.
And there one night I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: `It is well that you fast, soon you will go to your own country.’ And again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me: `See, your ship is ready.’ And it was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles, and I had never been there, nor did I know a living soul there; and then I took to flight, and I left the man with whom I had stayed for six years. And I went in the strength of God who directed my way to my good, and I feared nothing until I came to that ship.
After many perils and dangers in that journey by sea, then by land and now back home he had a dream in which Christ Jesus told him to preach Christ to the Irish people. He was trained to be a priest, in Gaul, present day France, under St. Germanus. Patrick’s superiors did not favor his going to Ireland because of his deficient education. There are only two surviving writings by St. Patrick, The Confessions and The Letter to Coroticus. Of his education Patrick confessed:
As a youth, nay, almost as a boy not able to speak, I was taken captive, before I knew what to pursue and what to avoid. Hence to-day I blush and fear exceedingly to reveal my lack of education; for I am unable to tell my story to those versed in the art of concise writing—in such a way, I mean, as my spirit and mind long to do, and so that the sense of my words expresses what I feel.
But if indeed it had been given to me as it was given to others, then I would not be silent because of my desire of thanksgiving; and if perhaps some people think me arrogant for doing so in spite of my lack of knowledge and my slow tongue, it is, after all, written: The stammering tongues shall quickly learn to speak peace.
How much more should we earnestly strive to do this, we, who are, so Scripture says, a letter of Christ for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth, and, though not an eloquent one, yet…written in your hearts, not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God! And again the Spirit witnesses that even rusticity was created by the Highest.
Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.
In 431 Bishop Palladius, sent by Pope Celestine to the Irish, died after only one year. So there had been evangelization in the Ireland, but with little result. Soon after, Patrick was name Palladius’ successor and consecrated as Bishop, missionary Bishop for Ireland. He was approximately 37 years old.
And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant this to His servant; that after my misfortunes and so great difficulties, after my captivity, after the lapse of so many years, He should give me so great a grace in behalf of that nation—a thing which once, in my youth, I never expected nor thought of.
The rest is history, as it is said, and legend, many legends regarding St. Patrick, such as driving out the snakes from Ireland. But of course by the Gospel many snakes were driven out: the serpent of the devil. And for Bishop Patrick such was done by the strong Name of the Holy Trinity. And it was done
Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be, judge of the living and of the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name.
For He Himself has said through the Prophet: Call upon me in the day of thy trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. And again He says: It is honourable to reveal and confess the works of God.
Patrick’s faith was the Trinitarian faith of the Scriptures and Christ’s Church. The lyrics of Hymn 188 in the Lutheran Book of Worship, I Bind Unto Myself Today, in the section, ‘Holy Baptism’ are attributed to Patrick and is called, Patrick’s Breastplate, that is, Baptism was his sure defense. So for him the Trinity was pure and saving doctrine and therefore the true confession because the Lord, the Holy Trinity is the way of life. Patrick knew what evangelization was all about: baptism.
In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord—so many thousands of people.
The evangelization of the Irish people was done in great struggle and peril. He makes this clear in his Confession. Patrick was criticized by the British when he demanded the excommunication of the British Prince Coroticus, who, in a retaliatory raid on Ireland, killed some of Patrick’s converts and sold others into slavery. Patrick wrote to the soldiers:
The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) – the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword …I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them.
And yet the Gospel was preached, the Scriptures taught, the Sacraments administered. The mission of Christ’s Church, Patrick knew, were Scripture and Sacraments for the salvation of many, in obedience to the Lord’s command to teach and baptize all nations.
For I am very much God’s debtor, who gave me such grace that many people were reborn in God through me and afterwards confirmed, and that clerics were ordained for them everywhere, for a people just coming to the faith, whom the Lord took from the utmost parts of the earth, as He once had promised through His prophets: To Thee the gentiles shall come from the ends of the earth and shall say: `How false are the idols that our fathers got for themselves, and there is no profit in them’; and again: `I have set Thee as a light among the gentiles, that Thou mayest be for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth.’
Tradition says Patrick died on this date.
I pray those who believe and fear God, whosoever deigns to look at or receive this writing which Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, has composed in Ireland, that no one should ever say that it was my ignorance if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God’s good pleasure; but let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought, that—as is the perfect truth—it was the gift of God. This is my confession before I die.
(Sources: Festivals and Commemorations: Handbook to the Calendar in Lutheran Book of Worship by Philip H. Pfatteicher; The Penguin Dictionary of Saints; Saints of the Roman Calendar by Enzo Lodi, “The Letter to Coroticus” @ http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1166.htm and Patrick’s Confession)
II. A Reflection on St. Patrick: Wearing of the Green
Pastor and Bishop Patrick in his evangelization of the Irish people followed the sound Biblical pattern of the Church: preaching the Word and administering the blessed Sacraments, especially Holy Baptism as Patrick attested in a quote above. Since one of his three extant writings is St. Patrick’s Breastplate, the basis of the Baptismal hymn, “I Bind Unto Myself Today” (#604, Lutheran Service Book), he is closely associated with Holy Baptism:
I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity,by invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three.
I bind this day to me forever by power of faith Christ’s incarnation,
his baptism in the Jordan river, his death on the cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb, his riding up the heavenly way,
his coming at the day of doom I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to harken to my need,
the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the Word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard.
I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three,
of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word;
praise to the God of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord!
Two sayings associated with St. Patrick’s Day in our day: “Everyone is Irish on St. Patty’s” and “The wearing of the green”. We are Irish in so far as one is baptized into Christ Jesus along with our brother in the Lord, Pastor and Bishop Patrick. One of my favorite legends about Pr. Patrick was he was witnessing to a powerful, pagan tribal chieftain who was stymied over the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. They were standing outside and Patrick bent over and plucked a shamrock and said, “The Trinity is like this shamrock: 3 leaves, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet one stem, one plant, one life”. “Wearing of the green” reminds us of the color of the altar cloths (paraments) for most of the Church year, green during the many Sundays after Pentecost. Along with Patrick, we only come to life in the Lord, in Holy Baptism, in the Name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Faith is the Lord’s utterly gracious gift. We are green and growing in Christ alone in the unity of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father, baptized into His Name alone. “…salvation is of Christ the Lord!” We wear not the green of Ireland, but of our only Homeland coming into the world now by faith, then by sight.