I played a leprechaun in a high school musical, and forthwith adopted the leprechaun’s moniker, Og, as my nickname. But only last week did I learn via DNA testing than I am actually more Irish than anything else (39% to be exact). And so it is with a new sense of ethnic enthusiasm that I celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day. Not by drinking green beer (which is more American than Irish), but by revisiting the story of the real-life saint the day is named for.
Even the Romans feared them. For centuries they avoided the Irish Celts, whom Julius Caesar had called “more savage than any other race.” When the newly Christianized Roman monks finally arrived in the 5th century, they looked down on the Irish barbarians. And in turn, those barbarians looked down on them, while continuing to live in fear of their own vengeful gods.
Then a Roman-British boy of 16 was captured and came to live among them. During his six years as a slave, he learned their language and their character. In slavery he found freedom, finally turning his heart toward God.
Patrick escaped, but then wandered restlessly. In his Confession he writes of a vision in which “the Voice of the Irish” cried out to him, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, come (back) and walk among us.”
After his ordination, the young bishop returned to “walk among” them. They were stunned by this former slave’s embodiment of love and forgiveness. And as a result, not only commoners but warlords and nobles alike surrendered their hearts to God. Faith in the God not of vengeance but of love spread like a flame. Patrick’s simple formula of forgiveness + love had set them free, just as it had him. Just as it has me. And you? If so, pass it on! And have a…