St Patrick’s Day is a whimsical holiday best known in America as a day for smiling leprechauns, wearing green, eating corned beef, and decorating with shamrocks. Many enjoy pretending to be Irish on this day, sending a few St. Patrick’s Day cards or at least celebrating all things Irish. But few may pause to think about how these symbols relate to a holiday named for Ireland’s most important saint.
St Patrick’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day cards are loaded with religious imagery, from the three-leafed shamrocks which represent the Holy Trinity to the green which stands not only for the Emerald Isle, but also for new life in Christ. Even legends of St Patrick, such as the one which says he drove all the snakes out of Ireland, are most likely references to the power of the gospel Patrick carried to drive sin out of men’s hearts. The Celtic cross is another contribution of Patrick to Irish culture. It was St Patrick who combined the pagan Irish honor for the sun with the symbol of Christianity to create a uniquely Irish icon of salvation.
The Story of St. Patrick
St. Patrick was born into a 5th century English family but through much hardship and earnest seeking after God was himself transformed into a missionary to the Irish. Although Patrick had a religious heritage, just like many modern teens he neither thought through nor embraced the faith of his family when he was an adolescent. That cavalier attitude toward the things of God changed dramatically when young Patrick was captured by raiders and made a slave in Ireland for six long years. Patrick spent those years shepherding for an Irish chieftain but he also spent them crying out to God in prayer and fasting.
It was in the chains of slavery that Patrick encountered the God of his fathers and learned to hear His voice. One day that voice assured him that his years of slavery were at an end and, confident in God’s message, Patrick walked a couple of hundred miles to the sea where, after more prayer, Patrick was granted berth for England. Now, safe in the bosom of his English family once again, Patrick decided to devote his life to the God who had met him and rescued him. He entered school and prepared for the priesthood.
But God had more to say to Patrick, and through a heavenly dream Patrick felt certain God was calling him to take the gospel back to Ireland. A CBN article described the Ireland to which Patrick returned. It was not only a land of personal ghosts for Patrick, but it was a land filled with superstition and druid practices. To a people enmeshed in tribal skirmishes, nature worship and dark fears, Patrick brought news of the One true God, a God of love and peace, a God who sacrificed personally to prove His love. Patrick’s message along with his own powerful testimony won the hearts and minds of Irishmen and women to Christ.
St Patrick is credited with establishing 300 churches during his 29 years of ministry. There are other works attributed to St Patrick, such as driving the snakes out of Ireland, but these are largely myth and legend. Put simply, Patrick’s gospel ministry transformed a nation, and its legacy is represented today in popular Celtic cross designs and Irish family wall cross designs.
Share the Spirit of St. Patrick with religious St. Patrick’s Day cards
This St. Patrick’s Day the monks at Conception Abbey invite you to celebrate the true message of St. Patrick by sending friends and loved ones a religious greeting card. The Printery House offers a variety of St Patrick’s Day cards which convey the spirit of Patrick’s ministry. Words of blessing, wisdom and prayer can help you cheerfully convey your good wishes for friends and loved ones and just might shine a light into someone’s heart.