Yep. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s day. We know the Irish part. But what about the saint part?
I’ve been rereading “The Celtic Way of Evangelism.” In it, George Hunter talks about how Patrick worked in Ireland.
A few basics. In the late 300s, Patrick was a 16 year-old English boy when he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. After 6 years, he escaped and went back to England. He studied theology. He became a priest. And in his late forties, he headed back to Ireland. Back to the land that represented pain for him, and captivity and suffering.
In his Confession, he said that it was God sending him back.
According to Hunter, it was a pretty effective career change. He knew the language. He knew the culture. He came with the credibility of a person returning to the scene of his pain with forgiveness and hope rather than with revenge. Hunter goes further and suggests that the approach of Patrick and his followers was pretty creative.
Rather than making people become British (or Roman) to become Christian, Patrick became Irish. Patrick and a group of people would set up camp alongside a town. They would build relationships. They would show the relationships they had. They would tell the Gospel in stories, in the language and style of the Irish. When they built monasteries, they were more like safe havens than fortresses.
Hunter says that in the Celtic approach that Patrick and his successors followed, belonging comes before believing. You are welcomed before you share the beliefs of the community rather than because you share them. However, in time, the community shapes you as you discover that the people really live what they say they believe.
That approach makes Patrick a saint. I’m guessing it also makes saints.