Yesterday was St. Patrick’s day. I neglected to wear green, but no one pinched me. Like St. Valentine’s Day, or Christmas and Saint Nicholas, the lives of these saints are something akin to the background radiation from the big bang – still there if you really look for it, but certainly not the first thing you think of when you look around at what things have become. Green beer, for example.
St. Patrick lived in fifth century Britain and served as a slave in Ireland for six years, returning later in life to be the first bring the gospel to Ireland. Two cool things about the Irish Christian tradition that St. Patrick initiated:
+ Ireland adopted Christianity while maintaining its reverence for creation from its pagan past. It’s a positive example of Christianity bringing its unique contribution to a people, without a colonial effect of obliterating the traditional culture. Celtic spirituality has undergone resurgence of late as its love for the goodness and beauty of life has connected with people seeking a world-affirming faith. Many of our liturgies from this year’s Lent have been drawn from the Celtic Iona Community.
+ Irish Christian monks had a major influence on the preservation of classical and ancient Christian texts for the Western world. Thomas Cahill tells this story in his book with a long subtitle, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. Basically, while the Roman world was falling apart, Irish monks on that isolated island were safely and lovingly studying and copying texts that were then newly available to ravaged Europe when political stability returned. Cahill goes so far as to suggest that without the Irish, and the love for literacy that St. Patrick brought to them, many of these texts would have been lost.
Cheers for earthy spirituality and saving good literature. Thanks Pat.
Our Hymnal Worship Book contains a text attributed to St. Patrick (HWB 442). The second verse says:
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.