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What is Saint Patrick’s Day about Anyway? - Six Lessons to teach your children from the life of S...

Updated: Feb 1

In light of the Coronavirus, I think we should be MORE compelled to share true stories of God's protection and His sovereignty. Here is one such story:

As you have read before, I have a passion for taking holidays that have become spiritually meaningless and return them to their holy and spiritual origins. I believe that by studying the origins of the holiday we can point our family to Christ and be more devoted to the Lord.

When I think of St. Patrick’s Day I usually picture leprechauns, shamrocks, green beer, corned beef and cabbage and dying the river green. Interestingly, Saint Patrick has little, if nothing, to do with these traditions and was actually a courageous and humble missionary who brought Christianity to the land of Ireland after much suffering and hardship. Patrick, whose original name was Maewyn Succat, was born to a noble family in what is now Scotland but was part Roman territory at the time. At the age of sixteen, he was brutally captured by Celtic Raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland, 200 miles from the coast. He was forced to work as a shepherd and suffered greatly from both cold and hunger - he was not even allowed to sleep indoors during the winter in frigid Ireland. Although Patrick had NOT been particularly devout in his faith as a child, during this time of suffering and hardship, Patrick clung to a sovereign Lord and prayed hundreds of times a day. Six years after he had arrived in Ireland, on the brink of starvation, he encountered the Lord in a dream or vision in which God told him he would lead him to a way of escape. As a result of this vision or dream, he bravely traveled 200 miles to the shoreline and found that there was a ship headed to Britain in the port. He hid on the ship and was able to gain safe passage to his homeland of Britain.

Upon his return from Ireland, Patrick diligently studied to earn an education and then entered the priesthood, studying for twelve years in a monastery. He appealed to the Bishops numerous times to be allowed to travel to Ireland to take the Gospel to them but was repeatedly turned down because Ireland was considered to be too dangerous for spreading the Gospel. He continued to be convinced that his life’s calling was to take the good news of Jesus Chris to those who had mistreated him in Ireland. Ireland was ruled by numerous brutal Celtic tribes who were savage warriors. Patrick had a bold goal to see all of the pagan tribes in Ireland converted to Christianity. For even sharing the Gospel, Patrick risked being brutally murdered. Interesting, God used his relationship with his former master to influence more for Christ. Patrick was able to convert this man, who had previously been brutal, to Christianity. The son of the man who had originally enslaved him was not the tribal chief. As an influential man, the tribal chief was able to aid Patrick’s mission to spread the news about Jesus. Eventually, the king of the largest tribe was converted to Christianity and was baptized by Patrick. Much of the people followed in his footsteps. Patrick didn’t just convert Ireland, he also planted churches throughout Ireland as he traveled. He was successful in persuading the tribal chiefs to outlaw Druid priests who engaged pagan religion and paving the way for Christian missionaries to be allow to preach in the tribes and build churches. Patrick also started a system of Christian schools in the nation.

Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD after having devoted 30 years of his life to converting Ireland to Christianity. When he died, most of Ireland had become Christians and turned from their pagan religion - thousands of believers came to know Christ because of Patrick’s sacrificial missionary work.

What are lessons Patrick can teach us that we can share with our children:

  1. Even in times of suffering and hardship, God is there and is listening to your prayers.

  2. God can use all things for our ultimate good and His glory (Romans 8:28) This is a good time to use the story of Joseph “What man intended for harm, God used for good.”

  3. We too need to be bold to share the Gospel - Patrick set the example for us as one of the very first cross-cultural missionaries

  4. Pray for our enemies - Not only did Patrick pray for his enemies, but he courageously went to share the Gospel with them. He had suffered greatly during his time of slavery, but instead of responding with vengeance, he responded with mercy and love.

  5. Go therefore and make disciples Matthew 28:19-20 - We are called to share the Gospel with every tribe and nation

  6. We are called to be Christ’s witnessed to the nations Acts 1:8 - But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

A St Patrick's Day Craft to Reinforce Learning

When you learn about Saint Patrick and the application from Acts 1:8 to take the gospel to the whole world, you can do a fun craft to reinforce this lesson. You can cut out clover shapes from green construction paper and give each of your kids one clover. Then, have your kids think of ways they can tell others about Jesus. Each of the three leaves on the clover can represent the three different areas where we are called to take the gospel - neighborhood, surrounding community and the ends of the earth. Have your children write ideas for how they can take the gospel to each area in the corresponding leaf. Then, spend some time praying together as a family for the unsaved in each of these areas to hear the good news of the saving power of Jesus.

Decorating to Point to the Real Meaning of the Holiday

There was a prayer written by Saint Patrick called the Saint Patrick’s Breastplate that is highly likely attributed to him. It is quite long, but there are some stanza that I choose to display in a wreath on my door during the first two week so March:

Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.

I made this door hanging by purchasing the chalkboard at Dollar Tree and wrote the portion from St. Patrick’s Breastplate (a prayer) on it with chalk.

Come back for more information and a fun food idea before the 17th.

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