Let’s play word association.  I say “St Patrick” and you might say “March 17,” “shamrock” (three leaf clovers), “Ireland,” “leprechaun,” or “adult beverages” with a green hue. To be cute, you might even answer with an Irish brogue.

Just like Christmas and Easter, St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of religious origin, of which the original meaning has been largely obscured over time and altered by rampant commercialization.  While the meaning of Christmas and Easter is not so completely hidden, the work and person of Patrick is largely unknown.

Let’s clear up some misconceptions.  Firstly, Patrick is not really a Saint (that is, not canonized by Rome); he was not Irish (he was English); and the whole thing about ridding Ireland of snakes is most assuredly mere myth.

Patrick did go to Ireland as a Christian missionary.  He strategically targeted those in power for conversion, which had a ripple effect throughout the entire population.  For up to 30 years, he traveled Ireland, promoting Christianity and setting up churches and monasteries.  His impact was immense and profound.

It is believed that he died on March 17, hence marking the day that we commemorate his life of service and accomplishment — largely by celebrating the myth that surrounds him.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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