The Coronavirus has been a shocking example of how rapidly things can spread and affect literally the whole world. Thankfully, a virus is not the only thing that can spread.
“In 401 or thereabouts, a great fleet of black coracles swept up the west coast of Britain…seizing many thousands of young prisoners. The ship returned with the prisoners to a slave market in Ireland.” Among those enslaved was a “boy of sixteen who called himself Patricius.” Alone, isolated, in this strange new land of Ireland, the boy turned to God. “Tending flocks was my daily work, and I would pray constantly during the daylight hours. The love of God and the fear of him surrounded me more and more–my faith grew, and the Spirit was roused, so that in one day I would say as many as a hundred prayers.”
“Patricius endured six years of this woeful isolation, and by the end of it he had grown from a careless boy to something he would surely never have otherwise been–a holy man.” When his time of slavery ended Patricius returned to Britain. But Ireland tugged at his heart. “One night in his parents’ house, a man he knew in Ireland visits him in a vision. (In the vision he hears a multitude of voices crying) “We beg you to come and walk among us once more.” Patricius returns to Ireland. Patricius, who once lived in isolation, an exile, a slave, returns to Ireland as a missionary. Through Patricius, the converted slave, the Christian faith came to grow throughout Ireland, touching the lives of nearly every single person. Through Patricius the good news of hope, the good news of healing, and the good news of wholeness through Jesus Christ spread and brought new life to many.
By now you must know Patricius is the one we know as St. Patrick. His influence spread in such a way that we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a variety of ways, in pubs, with rivers turned green, and with grand and jubilant parades. Today we will not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as we normally would. Today for most of us this is a day of isolation. But Patrick’s life is an example that even one who knew isolation can be part of spreading something that brings joy and life to many. Today on St. Patrick’s Day, would you join me in helping to spread good news, news of hope, and news of wholeness? Help in spreading this good news through praying with me a prayer attributed to St. Patrick.
“I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me, through God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me…God’s shield to protect me…
Christ to shield me today…
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every person who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation. Amen.”
(All quotes are from a wonderful book about “How the Irish Saved Civilization”, by Thomas Cahill. Mike, the husband of my cousin Lois, recommended this book to me some twenty years ago at a family wedding by the pool at a hotel in San Luis Obispo, California. Amazing the things we remember. Amazing how good things spread…if we take the time to spread them)