Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick the Church Planter

 Patrick was neither Irish nor particularly religious, at least not initially. Patrick was born Maewyn Succat in 385 AD as a Roman citizen in the Welsh town of Banwen, and for the first sixteen years of his life he was an avowed pagan.

 He was captured by Gaelic slave traders (some sources say Irish pirates/raiders/barbarians) at the age of sixteen and sold to an Irish sheep farmer. Patrick was enslaved for six years, during which he turned to Christianity for comfort. He escaped at the age of 22, and spent the next 12 years living in a British monastery. It was there that he adopted the name Patrick.  He returned to Ireland after his time in a monastery, along with 20-some followers, serving as a Christian missionary. He remained in Ireland until his death on March 17, 460 AD.

St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity to the Druids in Ireland, who viewed the shamrock as sacred.  Patrick would hold up a shamrock and challenge his hearers,  "Is it one leaf or three?" "It is both one leaf and three," was their reply.  "And so it is with God," he would conclude.

Of the 150 tribes he ministered to, 30-40 of them became substantially Christian. He trained over 1,000 pastors and planted over 700 churches around Ireland. The "wear your green" came from the reminder to wear a shamrock to remind yourself to share about the Trinity and your faith.

The myth that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland into the Irish Sea is just that -- a myth. Many locals still insist that the serpents were drowned in the Irish Sea by Saint Patrick, causing their seas to be so rough. The truth, however, is that serpents where never native to Ireland. The story is most likely a metaphor for the druidic religions, which disappeared from the Emerald Island after St. Patrick spread the seeds of Christianity. has almost as much to do with Leprechauns and green beer as Easter has to do with freakishly large, egg-hiding bunnies.