The Liturgical Home: St. Patrick’s Day

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In my hometown, St. Patrick’s Day was a huge deal! We all wore green to school unless you forgot, in which case I have not-so-great memories of being pinched ALL DAY LONG! Our local Irish pub hosted a huge beer festival and parade that night. Everyone would gather downtown to watch the grand processions of men in kilts playing bagpipes. It was so much fun!

But all those years celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I had no idea about the real Patrick, a slave and a missionary! In fact, St. Patrick’s life demonstrates an important Biblical principle that God can take evil and turn it into good. Joseph articulates this principle in the book of Genesis when he tells his brothers who had sold him into slavery,

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As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:20).

St. Patrick the Slave

Patrick, growing up in Britain during the 400s, hailed from a family of devout Christians; his father served as a deacon, while his grandfather held the role of a priest. At the age of sixteen, Irish marauders raided his village, kidnapping him and transporting him by ship to Ireland, where he endured six years of enslavement. During this time, Patrick herded sheep for a local chieftain, living in isolation with very little food or clothing.

Even though Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, he said in his Confessions that he initially lacked a deep connection with God. However, his time in Ireland led him to contemplate and pray fervently, eventually finding solace in his faith, which sustained him through those brutal years.

After six long years of slavery, Patrick heard a voice in his sleep telling him that he was about to depart for his homeland and that a ship waited for him. Patrick knew God was directing him, so he escaped from his enslaver and fled two hundred miles until he found the ship. Persuading the captain to grant him passage, Patrick returned to the shores of his homeland three days later, where he was joyously reunited with his family.

St. Patrick the Missionary

Patrick continued his life of prayer and began to study scripture and learn more about his Christian faith. He then went to France, where he studied and entered the priesthood under the guidance of the missionary St. Germain. Around 418 AD, the Bishop of Auxerre ordained him a deacon.

During this time, Patrick had a vision from God, and he heard the voice of the Irish say to him, “We beg you, holy servant boy, to come and walk again among us.” Patrick knew that God was calling him to return to Ireland. He left Ireland as a slave but would return as a missionary to spread the love of Christ to the lost.

In 432 AD, he became a bishop. Pope Celestine I sent Patrick to Ireland to spread the gospel to non-believers and support the small existing Christian community. He did return to Ireland and immediately began sharing the gospel of Jesus with the chiefs and their clans. Patrick already knew the Irish language and their customs, which significantly helped him communicate with the people. For the rest of his life, Patrick traveled throughout Ireland, spreading the good news and converting thousands to the Christian faith.

Celebrating St. Patrick At Home

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, let us thank God for always being with us, even amid tremendous hardship. St. Patrick is a powerful example of how God can take our sufferings and use them to help others and bring them out of darkness into his glorious light! Here are a few ways to celebrate:

  • Read Genesis 50:20 with your family. Discuss with your children how similar Joseph and St. Patrick were. Talk about how each one suffered and how God used them both to save those around them.
  • Read the words or listen to the hymn “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” You can Google the words and go over them with your kids or print the words out while you listen to the hymn on Spotify. This beautiful prayer of protection is believed to have been written by Patrick. It was later set to music and is now a beloved hymn (read more about it here).
  • Make Irish soda bread. This recipe is so good! It requires no rising and can be easily made quickly with your kids!

Irish Soda Bread

Saint Patrick's Day: Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants or raisins
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch diced
  • 1¾ cups cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup dried currants or raisins

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix it at low speed until the butter is mixed with the flour.

Lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest in a measuring cup with a fork. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with one tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Photo by Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Published on

March 16, 2023

Author

Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Ashley Tumlin Wallace, the author of the Liturgical Home series of books and articles at Anglican Compass, is a homeschooling mom of four and the wife of an Anglican priest. She and her family live in the panhandle of Florida.

View more from Ashley Tumlin Wallace

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