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Following St. Patrick’s footsteps
May the friendships you make,
Be those which endure,
And all your grey clouds
Be small ones for sure.
And trusting in Him
To Whom we all pray,
May a song fill your heart,
Every step of the way.
--Traditional Irish prayer
Although we are not a family who enjoys a strong Irish heritage, we gather to eat traditionally Irish food in honor of my dad, who was born in his grandmother’s farmhouse in Lincoln Country, OK, on March 17, 1928.
Sadly, three dinners have passed since he sat at our table to dine on corned beef and cabbage, carrots and potatoes, Irish tea cake and coffee enlightened with Irish cream. It was in October of 2006 when pancreatic cancer stilled our honorary Irishman. Yet it is the hope of heaven and Dad’s legacy (Finish strong!) that enables our dinners to be experienced as happy occasions. We imagine him healthy and his message is regularly referenced, for life affords us varied occasions to finish tasks, harness our best efforts and demonstrate deep care for the people around us.
This year I got to thinking about the significance of legacies and decided it was about time I learned more about Saint Patrick. I’m not quite sure how he’d feel about shamrock cookies and green beer, but I’m certain St. Patrick would be filled with awe to know that centuries later we are amazed at all he accomplished when teamed with God.
According to Coilin Owens, Irish literature expert and Professor Emeritus of English at George Mason University, St. Patrick was born in the first half of the 5th century. Little is known about his childhood, but at the tender age of 16 he was kidnapped from his native land of the British Isles by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. He worked as a shepherd and turned to Christianity for solace. After six years of servitude, he escaped to the Irish coast and made his way home to Britain.
Upon his return he decided to become a priest after dreaming that the Irish people were calling him back to share his Christian faith. After several years of study and preparation, Patrick traveled to Ireland as a missionary and is credited with creating a major religious shift because he converted so many nobles, who set an example that many people followed.
While there was significant opposition to his work from pagan priests known as “druids,” he pressed on despite their outcries and death threats, laying the groundwork for monasteries and churches that were built across the Irish countryside. He is also credited with increasing literacy in Ireland by promoting the widespread study of legal texts and the Bible. Previous to his life’s work, history and religious education was reliant on the memory of storytellers.
It is believed that Patrick died on March 17 after 30 years of ministry in Ireland. The Catholic church eventually sainted him and the first St. Patrick’s Day in America was celebrated in Boston in 1737. So much accomplished in 30 years by one man whose heart and soul were focused on God.
The elements of Patrick’s life, the hardships, separation, sacrifice, vision, enduring love for the Irish, and sense of purpose, all are gifts from God that he experienced. So can we. The evidence of his faith involved St. Patrick’s choice to trust God with the outcome of all things in all circumstances.
So this is the question of the week: Are we trusting God’s love? Can we trust that life experiences are intended to teach us how to serve and impact our modern world in the most positive of ways?
If we trust and pray, so say the Irish, God will fill our hearts with a song, every step of the way.
Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. She can be reached by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.