St. Patrick’s Day: More than an Excuse for Guinness

Byron LeavittHistory, Religion Leave a Comment

The invaders had ransacked their way through the village, and now they were just outside.  The family scrambled to escape, but the time for that had long since passed.  The marauders shattered the front door into a cloud of splinters.  The teenager’s mother screamed, pressing as far into the corner as her body would allow.  The boy barreled towards the pirates with a roar, the piece of wood he was using as a club raised high into the air.  He never stood a chance.  Before he knew it he was waking up on a boat, chained and helpless with the other children from the village.  As the ship pulled away from the harbor, the boy realized he was no longer a denizen of Britain: he was now a slave.

Patrick was taken to Ireland and sold to a sheep farmer.  There he remained as a slave for six long years.

An interesting thing happened to Patrick during that time, however.  Even though his father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest, Patrick had never been much for religion.  But during those years, he found himself beginning to pray.  He started to see God everywhere he looked, and in every circumstance as well.  He grew to know Him as Father, and Jesus as Brother and Lord.  When God began to speak to him then, it did not seem strange in the least.

While in prayer one day Patrick heard a voice tell him, “Behold, your ship is ready.”  Patrick listened to the voice, and fled for the port — the port which lay over 200 miles away.  When he finally arrived, however, he miraculously was granted the last available spot on the ship and set sail as one of the crew.

Eventually Patrick returned to the home of his parents where he was welcomed with celebration.  He settled back into a normal life and proceeded to build toward his future.  But his adventure was not yet done.  Late one night, Patrick had a dream.  In it he received a letter from “The Voice of the Irish.”  When he opened it he felt transported back to the land of Ireland: to the forests of Foclut and the Western Sea.  He heard the voices of the people there, and they cried out “We beg you, holy boy, come here and walk among us!” The vision of this desperate, lost people broke Patrick’s heart.  He knew he had to do something to help them.  And, deep in his bones, he already knew what that something was.

Despite the protests of his family and friends, Patrick returned to Ireland, the land of his captivity.  He stepped voluntarily into a hostile land full of pagan gods, tribal rule, and the immanent possibility of recapture.  He remained there for forty years.  During his time there he converted thousands of people to Christianity, established churches across the land, saw miracles happen regularly, and changed the course of an entire nation.  He became known as the apostle to the Irish, a people who he defended fiercely and loved unconditionally.  He finally died in the land of his captors, his people, at the first church he had ever built.

As you can see, Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t just a day to get drunk, pretend to be Irish and wear lots of green.  In fact, it has very little (or nothing at all) to do with any of these things.  (And don’t get me started on the leprechauns.)  It is a celebration of an extraordinary life, of a man who gave everything for a people who had previously taken everything away from him.  It is a story of sacrifice, forgiveness, and true love.  It is a memorial for a hero.  And it is a day when we can all strive to be a little bit better to those around us, to those who have wronged us, and to those who need us.  This is the true meaning of Saint Patrick’s Day.  Bottoms up.

If you liked this post, be sure to check out my book, “Of Hope and Cancer.”  It’ll give you a new perspective on life, suffering and God, and it might just give you the hope you need to get through.  You can find it on Amazon in both paperback and eBook right here.

And now, just because, here is an awesome video my brother, Robert Leavitt, showed me about Saint Patrick explaining the Trinity.  I thought it was funny.  Maybe you will, too.  At the very least, maybe you’ll enjoy the accents.  =)


Freeman, Philip. St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Print.

“Confession | St. Patrick’s Confessio.” Confession | St. Patrick’s Confessio. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <>.

“St. Patrick.” – Saints & Angels. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Saint Patrick.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <>.

Image courtesy of Cellar Tours <>.

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