Understanding St. Patrick (Updated)

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. I hope you are wearing green, lest you be pinched on that one day of the year where such cheeky activities are deemed appropriate. I am wearing one of my green bowties. Since I have a bit o’ the Irish in me (ahem, Finn . . .), I actually own three different green bowties and a spinach-hued necktie.

Unfortunately, most Americans (and probably most Irish, for that matter) are ignorant of the true St. Patrick. Perhaps they think he rid the Emerald Isle of all the snakes, a story that my reptiliophile friend Alvin Reid is glad is apocryphal. Perhaps they think he is famous for pouring green dye into a river, inventing the parade, establishing the first Irish pub, or inventing fish “n”chips. Or maybe they just think he was the quintessential Irishman, whatever that means.

St. Patrick was actually a missionary-monk who was the catalyst behind a movement that evangelized most of modern-day Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales over the course of two or three centuries. I love to lecture on St. Patrick in my Church History I classes, in part because his name is so familiar (if misunderstood), and in part because his story is so inspiring.

If you want to learn more about St. Patrick, I would recommend the following online sources:

Russ Moore has a great article today titled “What Evangelicals Can Learn from Saint Patrick.”

Mary Cagney wrote a fine introductory article titled “Patrick the Saint” for Christian History.

Michael Haykin wrote a brief reflection on St. Patrick influence a couple of years ago.

Stephen Wilson wrote a short article titled “Baptists and St. Patrick” for Baptist Press last year.

At Google Books, you can find a well-known biography of St. Patrick written in the mid-1800s.

My personal favorite: W. A. Criswell preached a sermon titled “St. Patrick was a Baptist Preacher” in 1958. You can read the sermon’s transcript or listen to the message.

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