Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Patrick, commemorating the day of his death in AD 461.

I’ll admit, when I was growing up, the only thing I knew about St. Patrick’s Day was that we were supposed to wear green. And even that was challenged. Some Protestants started a contrarian movement to wear orange instead. Because, St. Patrick was, ya know, Catholic.

Well, Saint Patrick died more than a thousand years before the Reformation, so he was as Christian as any other Christian of that day—not Catholic and not Protestant.

According to his own writings, he was born into a wealthy Romano-British home. Both his father and grandfather were active in the Church. At sixteen Patrick was kidnapped and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. During the six years he served in that pagan land, he became a Christian, eventually escaped, and returned home.

Patrick then became a priest and some years later decided to return to Ireland as a missionary. He spent a number of years in northern Ireland, confronting druids and leading thousands to Christ.

Green became associated with Patrick because of his connection with Ireland, known for its lush, green landscape. In addition, in the 1640s the Irish Catholic Confederation adopted a flag with a field of green.

The shamrock, also green and also a symbol associated with St. Patrick’s Day, according to legend was an object the missionary used to teach the pagans about the trinity.

Some places still hold St. Patrick Day parades today, and other such festivities, but perhaps the other thing most associated with the day is drinking. There’s a reasonable explanation behind that, too. Patrick was celebrated internationally as early as the tenth century. By the 1600s the Catholic church included his day on the liturgical calendar.

However Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol conflicted with a feast, so they were lifted for the day. Hence, eating and drinking on St. Patrick’s Day, particularly in excess, became something similar to Mardi Gras.

To be honest, I’m a little sad that so much has been lost about St. Patrick. The celebrations and the day itself have so little to do with a young, twenty-something slave coming to grips with his need for Christ, and eventually returning to the land of his captivity to share the gospel with the very people who had caused his suffering.

It’s a true story of redemption and forgiveness, much more powerful than wearing green and drinking oneself into a stupor.

I have to wonder how a person becomes so well-known that strangers down through the centuries want to celebrate his life. St. Patrick must have endeared himself to the Irish people. And the Irish had occasion to spread throughout Europe and beyond. Like so many immigrants, they took their culture with them. At least that’s what occurred in America when the Irish immigrants increased dramatically in the 1800s.

All that aside, why don’t we have an Apostle Paul Day? Or more recently a Corrie ten Boom Day or a Jim Eliot Day? These people suffered for their faith, made an impact for Christ beyond their small world, influenced people far and near.

So why Patrick?

Only God knows. My hope is that St. Patrick’s Day will be a reminder, to me at least, of the power of the gospel, of the value of unselfish and sacrificial service. May his day become a beacon of light today into the pagan world, even as his missionary endeavors were when he first shared Christ with a land under druid influence.

Published in: on March 17, 2017 at 6:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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Two Wrongs Make A Huge Mess

cinco-de-mayo-stampIf you’ve ever wanted an example of two wrongs not making a right, there’s a perfect illustration unfolding in California. The Ninth District Court of Appeals has struck again. A recent ruling from that court gives schools permission to ban the wearing of the United States flag for the sake of safety.

The court’s ruling, in my opinion, is wrong number two. The first wrong incited the suit that ended up in the appeals court.

It appears some students chose to protest the celebration of Cinco de Mayo by a group of Mexican-Americans by wearing tee shirts with the American flag on them. As a result, the school required the students to turn their shirts inside-out because “administrators feared the American-flag shirts would inflame the passions of Latino students celebrating the Mexican holiday.” (“Court: School can ban U.S. flag shirts for safety,” USA Today). Apparently there was a history of tension between culturally white and culturally Hispanic groups. One source I heard indicated gang involvement fuels the problem.

But here’s the deal. In two weeks our nation will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a thoroughly Irish day, and celebrated as such in many places. Who trots out the American flag on that occasion? And recently here in SoCal, we had a Tai parade, or was it Vietnamese?

The Chinese New Year is another day of celebration, often with parades, that has been imported along with our immigrant population. We also have a part of the country that makes Mardi Gras, a French term identifying a celebration from the Old Country, its most notorious festival.

The point is, we are a nation of immigrants, and remembering, even rejoicing in, the place of one’s heritage, is not uncommon and it’s not a slap at America.

Is eating pizza un-American? Of course not! We are a nation of borrowers, from language to foods to traditions to days of celebration.

It was an uninformed act, then, for those students to do something to disrupt others commemorating Cinco de Mayo.

I grew up in a town that set aside a week for a Fiesta. It was one of the big tourist draws and something the entire community looked forward to and participated in. It was not looked at as an anomaly because it focused on the Mexican heritage of our region. After all, that’s part of our history, part of our culture, and forms the background for a good many of our citizens.

So the students who protested others celebrating Cinco de Mayo were wrong.

But so was the school who told them they couldn’t show the American flag and the court that upheld the decision. I mean, really? A safety matter?

First, how about some real education? Teach those kids that Cinco de Mayo isn’t an us/them divide. If someone doesn’t want to celebrate a culture they don’t know, fine. But teach them that someone commemorating their heritage is not dissing America. Otherwise, everyone who wears green March 17 is hating on America.

On the other hand, how about the school teaching the Cinco de Mayo kids that showing patriotism for your home (their home as well, in case they haven’t been reminded of it lately) isn’t something to get upset about.

I realize this problem does undoubtedly have gang implications, so how about dealing with that instead of banning the flag? I mean, really. Nothing like putting band-aides over the problem.

These two wrongs have made the situation far from right. It’s now a royal mess that could end up in the Supreme Court. But that’s our society today–litigious to the max!

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