Dr. Swisher, Is St. Patrick’s Day a Christian Holiday?  Kennedy, Bowling Green, Ohio

Hello Kennedy. Thank you for this timely question as this week March 17th the World celebrates this remarkable person. Many of our fellow citizens will even wear all styles and shades of green so they don’t get pinched. It’s a wonderful day for the Irish across the globe. Even your name, Kennedy is Irish in ancestry.

But there are a few things we should get right about Patrick before we begin the celebration so at least we will know what we are doing.

  1. He was not Irish, he was English. Now that’s enough to make any of us say aye and begorrah. But that is a fact. He was born in the Northwestern part of England in 389 AD. His father was a magistrate and a Pastor of the English Church.
  2. He wasn’t a Saint.  At least he’s never been Canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. He was a Saint in the sense that God makes every true believer a Saint.
  3. He wasn’t Roman Catholic and had no connection with that Denomination. Patrick is buried in the Protestant Church in Ireland.

I know all of this is shocking. However the reality of Patrick is far more wonderful than the myth. At the age of 16 on the Western Coast of England just south of Scotland he was seized by Irish Pirates and sold as a slave to Druids North of Belfast. He was enslaved for 6 years suffering as he would later describe in “nakedness and hunger.”

After years of torture he escaped from his captors, made it to the seashore and was able to get passage back to England.  He was finally miraculously home again. He decided to become a minister and 20 years later he returned to Ireland as a missionary. There he challenged the Druid chieftains. He confronted them with the Gospel of Christ. Historians tell us that Patrick personally baptized 120,000 people and built 300 Churches. He found Ireland primarily pagan and left it overwhelmingly Christian.

His writing known as the Breastplate confesses “Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ on my left and Christ on my right.” His life verse was Philippians 1:21 “For me to live is Christ.” Patrick was enslaved on the Dark Island yet because of Christ’s impact through him, that land is known as the Emerald Isle or the Island of Light to this day.

That more than anything else, Kennedy definitely deserves a Holiday. Join us this morning at Epworth UMC  as we celebrate the God Patrick served.