Sunday, March 13, 2011

Should Protestants Celebrate St Patrick's Day?

In order to answer this question, we need to know who St. Patrick was and how St. Patrick's Day was established.

St. Patrick was not born in Ireland. In fact, his name was not Patrick and his exact year and place of birth are debated. Born in the later half of the 4th century AD, one belief is he was born about 390 A.D., the other about 373 AD. His birth place is said to be in either Scotland or Roman England. His real name? Probably Maewyn Succat. Patricius was his Romanicized name, e later came to be known as Patrick.

St. Patrick was the son of Calpurnius, a Roman-British army officer. One day a band of pirates landed in south Wales and kidnapped him along with many other boys and sold him into slavery in Ireland. He was imprisoned there for most of 6 years. During this time he dreamed of having seen God. Legend says, God ordered him to escape by a getaway ship.

Finally, St. Patrick did escape and went to Britain and then France. In France he joined a monastery and studied under St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. He spent about 12 years in training and became a bishop. In The Confessio, St. Patrick's spiritual autobiography, is an important document that tells us of a dream after his return to Britain, in which one Victoricus delivered him a letter headed "The Voice of the Irish." He dreamed that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God

With the Pope's blessings St. Patrick set out for Ireland where he converted the Gaelic Irish, who were mostly Pagans, to Christianity. St. Patrick was confident in the Lord and he journeyed far and wide baptizing and confirming the Irish. He brought gifts to a kinglet here and a lawgiver there, but he never accepted any gifts from anyone. In this fashion St. Patrick was quite successful at converting the Irish to Christianity. In fact, he converted many royal families. Of course the Celtic Druids were very unhappy about this and St. Patrick was arrested several times, but always managed to escaped.

For 20 years St. Patrick traveled throughout Ireland. He establishing monasteries, schools and churches all across the country with a native clergy that fostered the growth of monasticism, established dioceses and held church councils. St. Patrick's doctrine is considered orthodox and has been interpreted as anti-Pelagian.

Although St. Patrick was not considered to be a particularly learned man, a few of his writings are still in existence today. His Confession, a reply to his detractors, and several letters. The Lorica (Breastplate), a famous hymn attributed to St. Patrick, may date to a later period.

By the end of the 7th century St. Patrick had become a legendary figure. One of the legends associated with St Patrick says he used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity; hence its strong association with St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick's mission in Ireland lasted for over 20 years until he died on March 17, AD 461. He is known as the patron saint of Ireland. March 17th has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since to celebrate the universal baptization of Ireland. Originally a Catholic holy day, almost everyone, Christian or not, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as the day of the Irish.

As a Baptist and ¼ Irish as well, I don’t see any harm in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Yesterday I decorated my mantel with green shamrock garland, a green shamrock covered vase and shamrock covered candle holders. In my heart, the three leaves of the shamrock stand for God our Father, Jesus our Savior and the Holy Ghost, the loving spirit that comforts my soul.

I have to admit, even though I know there is no such thing, I did add a leprechaun and his hat and pipe too! As legend has it, the leprechaun works all day making shoes, like I work all day at my Christian business. He saves gold coins in a pot at the end of a rainbow, like I put a few dollars into a savings account for a rainy day. I figure so long as my main focus is serving the Lord as best I can and not searching for the leprechaun’s pot of gold, what harm can there be in it?

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  1. I had always heard as christians we were supossed to wear orange on St. Patricks Day instead of green. I have also heard that a peace sign is a symbol for rebellion and an upside down broken cross. But when I tried to look it up, all I could find was peace and love. What do you think?Have you heard that before? See you on

  2. Irish Protestants used to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day in opposition to Irish Catholics. My mother taught me that when I was just a little girl.
    I found your answer to the peace sign here: