Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shamrocks and Pantone 295

Helping set the record straight on who St. Patrick was, Ken Glassmeyer writes the following article. I only wish he'd included how he shared the gospel using a shamrock! dg

Hold onto to your Donegal tweed hat, I am going to tell you something many of you don't know.  The real St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was way more fond of the color blue than green: "Pantone 295" to be exact.  It is the same shade on the original national flags, coat of arms, and St. Paddy's favorite vestiges.  The "wearing of the green" actually had nothing at all to do with wearing green clothing.  It had to do with pinning a shamrock leaf to your vest.  St. Patrick did this as he traveled from village to village, not as fashion statement, but rather as a way to explain the gospel to non-believers.

Naomh Pádraig, as his kinfolk knew him by, was not actually Irish.  He was more Roman, than British, and it is believed he was born in Cumbria, not too far from where King Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, grew up.  

Ironically, he was kidnapped by Raiders and forced into slavery in the tin islands, and as such was called 
Patricius Daorbae, which loosely translated means, the boy taken from the land of his father.  This happened while he was a teenager.  He eventually escaped, but decided to return to the land of his captors later in life as a missionary to SERVE them!

At that time in the church, it was not unusual for an educated young man to become a missionary, but all too often in that region it had nothing to do with serving your fellow man.  More times than not, it was very much about being an entrepreneur.  There was a great deal of money to be made selling indulgences, blessing chieftains, baptizing babies, marrying new couples, and ordaining village leaders.  Patrick reversed all of that.  He served at every opportunity, and refused any payment.  In fact, he was widely known as a gift giver.  This is a far cry from Patrick "The Fighting Irish" saint of legend that was known for boxing druids and brawling with pagans, drawn mostly from the folklore written far after the death of Patrick by Tírechán and Muirchu.  When we look at the actual correspondence that he and others wrote during the times of his life, we find he had his greatest impact by working with the poor.  He was, after all, from the Franciscan order.  It probably did take a rough and ready man to carve kingdom expansion out of the harsh Irish landscape, but, as we have often asserted at Serve, more times than not, your best weapons are field tools and a cup to serve water out of for the thirsty.  

Some of the legends are pretty fun to examine however.  For instance, it is not believed by historians that he literally drove poisonous snakes away from the island, since the environment actually would not have supported them anyway, but rather it had to do with his ability to drive darkness form the land through kindness.  Another interesting tale is about his persistence.  During his evangelizing journeys he was known to carry a thick walking staff made of heart ash.  It was said he would drive this stick in the ground in the middle of each village he went to serve at, and leave it in the mud until he had converted the whole region.  There is still a town today in Ireland known as Aspatria (ash of Patrick).  It is a testament to Patrick's perseverance.  It is claimed  that it took so long to get through to the people there that the stick had taken root and become a groove of ash trees before he was able to move on.

Forget the green beer and singing of sad songs. . .the best way to celebrate St. Paddy's day is to go out and serve somebody!