Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
– Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2006
St. Patrick’s Day is one of interest to me. I was quite ignorant of the impact His Grace (he is a Bishop) had on society as a whole. Perhaps its because I live in Boston where he is sometimes reduced to a mere color and baby clover. It was when I was presented with the prospect of being ordained (Anglican priesthood) on his feast day*, I decided to do a little more research on him. He was quite the remarkable man.
He is British by birth, NOT Irish. He is the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest.** He was kidnapped by Irish pirates and forced into slave labor at the age of sixteen. Six years later, he fled back to Britain. According to his writings, the six years of captivity, in a foreign land, lead to him converting (in an authentic way) to Christianity. While in Britain, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained. He then felt God calling him to return to Ireland and preach to the masses. He did this and would become Bishop of Ireland, and ultimately the Patron Saint of Ireland.
St. Patrick is interesting because, in many ways, he found Jesus in jail. This is something that does happen. Although many who are ignorant of this believe that one can’t grow closer to God in the midst of captivity, St. Patrick does. The act of returning to the place of his captivity, to preach to those whose souls are held captive by sin is nothing short of admirable.
In the National Guard Armory where my headquarters is located, there is a very large (probably 6 feet in height, 3 feet in width) painting of St. Patrick hanging on a wall of the drill shed. Everyone who walks in stops and admires it. It’s quite a sight! I believe it’s the only armory in Massachusetts to have something like that in it. It’s there because of its historical value. It was placed there by soldiers of the community years ago. It’s a direct connection to the past. Many people have tried to get it removed (screaming anti-religious rhetoric) but to no avail. It is a mainstay. It is a relic of the not only the immediate past, but the distant past, of that young man, who decided to serve something bigger than himself.