What if it really happened? What would that day look like?
In my mind, Sophie's Day would be bright, sun-shiny and 70 degrees. Everyone would wear bright colors, drink coffee, eat ice cream, and play frisbee. At night, there would be a huge hymn sing and scripture recitation time on a large grassy field, lit up by campfires and stars.
But what if in 1,000 years, Sophie's Day was really being celebrated, but people had warped the festival to include unicorns, dancing, rice pudding (gross!) and only wearing purple? What if people told stories about me, which were fanciful and extra-ordinary and used my life as a reason to get drunk?
Maewyn Succat was born in the 4th Century A.D. on the Island of Britain. His father was a wealthy, religious man and taught Maewyn about God, but Maewyn really didn't care. God didn't have a place in his life. Then, at age 16, he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to the wild island of Ireland. It was there that God worked in his heart, and he remembered all that he had been taught.
In his own words... "I did not know the true God, and I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people - and deservedly so, because we had turned away from God, and had not kept His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation...And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and then turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my low estate, and took pity on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son."
For six years he was in captivity, and throughout that time, he was strengthened in his faith as he remembered Bible verses and saw God's hand of mercy on his life. He escaped back to Britain, but when he was about 40 felt called to return to Ireland to share the good news of salvation by faith.
In St Patrick’s Confession, he shares a clear testimony of God's working by faith, and not by works. In his other work, The Hymn, also known as "Breastplate," this is one of the refrains: "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me!"
Though a Roman Catholic, he knew his Scriptures and, in all his writings, never once mentions the Virgin Mary, rosaries, purgatory, miracles, or snakes. He stood resolutely against superstition of any and every kind.
He died in obscurity in 461 AD, and though he is the "patron saint" of Ireland, he was never officially canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. There are many myths about what he said and did, including driving all the snakes (symbolic for rituals and superstitions) out of Ireland, and several miracles. However, from his own writings, we can see none of these things, but rather, a living, thriving faith in God which gave him boldness in the face of much opposition.
"I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many."
"I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up.""For I am much God's debtor, who gave me such great grace that many people were reborn in God through me".
Maewyn/Patrick is not one to be worshipped and canonized. He would be horrified at the revelry and superstition tied to a celebration in his honor.
Though wearing green, making green food, and having corned beef and cabbage is not evil by any means, use this day as a reminder to live faithfully for God, as Patrick did.
And if he were here today, I think he would urge us to focus more on Christ than on Ireland and what he did there. That was his mission field. Where is yours?