Every March 17, millions of people don the color green and head to the bar to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. I have always wondered why the secular culture has embraced Saint Patrick's Day. Maybe the secular culture at large just wants an excuse for drinking excessively, and to make it appear they are not celebrating a Catholic day, they choose to wear green as a tribute to Ireland.
The truth is Saint Patrick's Day has nothing to do with the color green, beer, whiskey, or even Ireland. Saint Patrick's Day commemorates the life of Patrick, a fifth century missionary and bishop.
Saint Patrick was born in 389 AD in Bannavem Taberniae on the island of Britain. No one is sure on the exact location of this town, but most scholars suspect it is in west Scotland. The one thing that is certain is that Patrick was NOT born in Ireland.
At the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by pirates and became a slave in Ireland. Prior to his abduction, he had not been actively practicing the Christian faith. While in slavery, however, he felt God's presence and began praying as he tended sheep. According to Patrick's own words, he prayed nearly 100 times every day.
One night, he had a dream wherein he heard the Lord tell him a ship was waiting for him, and after six years in slavery, he escaped to search for the boat. Patrick wrote late in his life that he had to walk 200 miles to find the boat. When he reached the coast and saw a ship was indeed about to set sail, he told the captain he needed to sail with them to Britain, but the captain refused to let him board. Patrick turned around and began to pray, and before his prayer was finished, the sailors were calling out to him that they would take him on board with him.
When they returned to the island of Britain, they were without food for a long period of time. After the captain mocked him for not praying for food, Patrick convinced the sailors to pray with him for food. Shortly thereafter, they came across a herd of swine and had food for days.
Before Patrick could be reunited with his family, he was once again taken into slavery. After being captured, he had a dream that told him he would only be in slavery for two months, and in two months time, he regained his freedom and was reunited with his family.
It was not long before Patrick knew he needed to leave his family again. In a dream, he heard the people of Ireland calling out to him, imploring him to return to them. Patrick knew this meant he was being called to serve as a missionary to the Irish people. After some resistance from his parents and some time spent studying to become a priest, he went as a consecrated bishop to the land of his six years of slavery.
In Ireland, Patrick faced on a daily basis the danger of enslavement, imprisonment, violence, and death. At times, he was thrown into jail and his death sentence pronounced, but he always escaped his peril. Nothing could shake his resolve, and in thirty years he would baptize thousands, establish many churches, schools, and monasteries, and consecrate 350 bishops.
The life of Saint Patrick has noting to do with leprechauns, pots of gold, the color green, or alcohol. It is the courageous tale of a man who desired to bring the Gospel to the pagans in what was then the most remote corner of the known world. Binge drinking and celebrating a country, while ignoring the Saint for whom the day was declared a celebratory one, is a great injustice.
Is it wrong to celebrate? No. But before you get hammered on green beer, ask yourself "What am I celebrating?" and "What is the proper way to celebrate this?".