Though the above video was written with children in mind, it summarizes Patrick’s life fairly well. Some information is glossed over: Patrick was the son of a Roman Citizen and Deacon, his conversion to Christianity occurred during his enslavement, and it was through him that God worked to convert nearly all of Ireland to Christianity. Patrick was an incredible godly man, and this Holy Day kept in memory of him was become quite the festival. But in the midst of all the excitement, let us keep in mind that this Holy Day exists because a man followed God’s command to preach the Word, even to a pagan people who kidnapped and enslaved him.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
~ Matthew 28:19-20 ~
As the above video tells, Patrick, once free, received a vision to return to Ireland and share the good news of Christ. Patrick followed this calling from God, and praise the Lord that he did! If he had shirked his duty, many of Irish would have remained without the hope of Christ. They would have remained the lost. We should view the world in a similar way Patrick saw Ireland. What do people worship in each country? Likely, there are Christians there. But more often than not, when people say they worship God they do not necessarily mean they worship the one true God of Scripture. Though some may think they have moved past the worship of stone and nature, they do still worship self and things. There are people who still need to hear the truth. But how do we reach them?
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked very carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an alter with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
~ Acts 17:22-23 ~
What did Paul do in this passage? Did he come at them with attacks or ignorance? Not at all! Instead, he learned about this people and approached them with the Gospel in mind. He said, “You have a question and I have the answer!” Paul took elements from their culture – altars, philosophy, and the Areopagus – and used them to present the Gospel in a way they would hear it. He told them that all people are children of God, that God made all things, and that God is with us (Acts 17:22-31).
Patrick did something similar – he used a shamrock. This missionary, to a people who became his people, used a common element from Irish culture and religion that they would recognize and understand to preach the Gospel. The shamrock was used, though imperfectly, to represent the Trinity. And why not? For we know that God is seen through and in His creation, even His eternal power and godhead (Rom. 1:20, Psa. 19:1).
As mentioned before, Patrick is essentially the reason that Christianity became a solid foundation in Ireland. The same was said for America too, but it has since fallen from that foundation. With these things in mind, should we not be living out the great commission in our daily walk where we are? We too are called to preach the Gospel to all nations, including our own. We can use elements from our own lands – be they holidays, events, tragedies, personal experiences, symbols, etc – to reach people with the truth of God’s Word. Each of these things can be used as starting points to form bonds and understanding between people, creating and opening a chance for us to share the Gospel.
Patrick and Paul, like many forefathers of Christianity, are an example to us as we walk in our daily life. They became and used all things so that they might be able to share the Gospel with those near and far, similar and disimilar (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Let us then hold unswervingly to the faith we profess, boldly speak the Word, and proclaim Christ to all in everything we do (Heb. 10:23, 1 Cor. 15:58, 2 Tim. 2:15, 3:16-4:4, Eph. 5:15-16).
Blessings to you and yours,