St. Patrick: missionary

March 17, 2009

Kiss me, I'm a missionary

Today, folks attend parades, wear shamrocks, put on green and drink alcohol (including green drinks) — all to celebrate the legacy of one of the greatest Christian missionaries! OK, maybe not. Still, rather than wearing green, I thought I would celebrate the day by reading the Wikipedia entry on Saint Patrick. Here’s what I got:

Patrick was from Wales, but was taken to Ireland as a slave. After escaping, he returned to Ireland as a missionary. You’d think he wouldn’t want to set foot there again! What happened during his enslavement, I wonder, that filled his heart with God’s love for his captors?

His ability to preach was hindered by his continual need for translators, many of whom probably didn’t know what he was talking about, so how could they interpret it correctly? Yet he baptized “many thousands” — how?

  • He lived in community with those he was trying to reach. In other words, because his language skills weren’t great, he concentrated on being a living example instead.
  • He did not approach the Irish with any attitude of superiority, but as an equal.
  • He raised up other leaders to do the same.

God took his weakness and turned it into a strength.

Oh, and one more thing: He was apparently opposed by European bishops, who accused him of profiting by accepting gifts and getting payola for ordaining people to the priesthood. …So even then, the established church was butting heads with missionaries!

So happy St. Patrick’s day, everyone. Celebrate your heritage, wear green, watch The Boondock Saints, and enjoy your drinks! But let’s also remember the example of this missionary, the way his weakness was turned into strength, and the way he went beyond words to demonstrate the Alternate Universe of God by humbly living it. I leave you with a zen-like portion of a prayer traditionally attributed to him:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

(Do you like the image I made? The shamrock itself comes from this Illustrator tutorial.)

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.