Actually, it seems to have nothing to do with snakes.

St. Patrick’s day interests me this year. I found myself wondering what it was all about. I was really hoping that it was more than green beer and shamrocks. As it turns out, it is!

Patrick was born in 387 and died around 461, making him a contemporary of Augustine. He was born in Scotland to a Roman family. Although his father was a bishop, his family, for the most part, was only religious in an outward sense. When Patrick was about 14 or so, we was kidnapped by an Irish raiding party and taken back to Ireland as a slave. He seemed to have a religious awakening at this point in his life and devoted himself to prayer while working on a farm in Ireland. In his confessions, he wrote “The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.” “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.” Six years later he had a dream in which he heard a voice telling him to run away from the farm on which he worked. He ran to the coast and found a ship which took him back to his family. Patrick was eventually ordained as a bishop. Some time later he had another dream in which the people in Ireland called out to him saying “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.” He then returned to Ireland to preach the Gospel. He is credited as being the first person to bring Christianity to Ireland (the idea of him chasing the snakes out of Ireland is likely referring to him purging paganism from the island). For 40 years he traveled all around Ireland, preaching and planting churches as he went. He eventually died on March 17 in the city where he had planted his first church.

So, as you wear your green clothes or search for your four-leafed clover, remember Patrick, and the thousands of missionaries on the field today, doing what Patrick did so long ago. St. Patrick’s day is really a celebration of missions, in a way. Pray for the missionaries on St. Patrick’s day.