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Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, as you may know. Like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, it is a civic and cultural day rooted in religious history. While many people will be celebrating with all things green (including clothes, shamrocks, and even our own Hillsborough River) and an array of Irish food (Corned Beef and Cabbage?), it is nice to remember the legacy of Patrick himself, and the faith to which he devoted his life.

Patrick was not born in Ireland, but in England, then captured as a youth and enslaved for years in Ireland as a shepherd. He had little formal education, but he had a depth of spiritual experience. He escaped his captivity and returned to Britain, but amazingly, he later volunteered to return to Ireland to bring the experience of Christ to his former captors.

He had a knack for connecting the truths of the Christian faith with commonplace aspects of Irish culture. He used bonfires to celebrate Easter because the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He superimposed a sun (a powerful Irish symbol) onto the Christian cross, so that it would seem more natural to the Irish; the result was the iconic Celtic cross. His most famous connection was between the three-leafed clover, or shamrock, with the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

Most importantly, Patrick reminded people of the presence of Jesus Christ, who offers us protection and guidance. His prayers include one of the most famous prayers ever written, which is now commonly known as the Prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate. It is a prayer that speaks of Christ’s constant companionship and assurance:

Christ ever with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me

Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me

Christ to my right side, Christ to my left side

Christ in his breadth, Christ in his length, Christ in depth

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me

Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me

Christ in every eye that sees me

Christ in every ear that hears me.

No matter what you are going through today, know that Christ is with you, before you, behind you, and within you.

And Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Grace and Peace,