Some people say that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. But wouldn’t it be great if everyone were like St. Patrick on St. Patrick’s Day? If instead of, “Hey! Let’s find a bar and have a few beers!” we’d say, “Hey! Let’s find a bar, buy a round for some people and talk to them about Christ and His Church.”
Okay. Probably not going to happen anytime soon. I know I don’t have that kind of nerve. Maybe someday, God willing. I wonder if St. Paul Street Evangelization has a special strategy for St. Patrick’s Day. Those people amaze me.
Since one of Patrick’s legendary teaching moments involved using the three-leaf shamrock to explain the Blessed Trinity, we thought we’d offer a three-pack of tips on evangelizing the St. Patrick way (insert your own six-pack joke here, you know you want to, I’m certainly fighting the impulse, and not very well).
By the way, about the shamrock thing—they say that one got past the goalie because the Irish were already used to worshiping gods in threes. St. Patrick was nothing if not observant. More about that later.
Okay, so how about that three-pack? How did St. Patrick do it?
Here’s the first thing you have to understand: St. Patrick was all about new evangelization about 1600 years before new evangelization was cool. He had his own, straight to the heart way of doing things that wasn’t quite the norm—it was ahead of its time.
The big difference? Apparently, your essential evangelist of the day was of the impression that people needed to be civilized to an extent before they could be evangelized, to which St. Patrick said, “Civilized. Schmivilized!”—or words to that effect. After all, one man’s civilization is another man’s savagery.
That said, here’s our take on the big three.
1) Saint Patrick had perfect confidence in Christianity.
Patrick was firm in his belief that Jesus meant everything He said during His earthly ministry, especially when He said everyone needs to know about Him and the Holy Spirit will take care of providing the words you need to the job done. Patrick was also confident in Christianity’s ability to permeate a culture. Where other evangelists sought to super-impose Christianity over an existing culture, Patrick’s genius lay in his ability to simply smooth the road for the truth of Christianity to, so to speak, do its stuff. That led to a mutual adaptation in which Irish pagans became Christians and Christianity took on some of the flavor of Irish culture while thoroughly preserving the Deposit of Faith.
2) Saint Patrick saw the potential for Christianity in the Irish.
Patrick understood that God has written a sense of Himself into the heart of every human being. And while there were those who probably disagreed with him, the non-Christian Irish were human in no uncertain terms. Learning the Irish culture and understanding their essential honorable nature and desire for clarity, Patrick found those things in them that reflected Christian principles the Irish were unaware of espousing and used that common ground as a place to begin relationships that led to the conversion of the entire country. Did people also eventually notice certain strategic, less-than-pious benefits to Christianity? Of course they did (that whole human being thing again) but engaging in trade with other Christian cultures, opening Ireland more and more to Christendom was another plus St. Patrick brought to the Emerald Isle.
3) Saint Patrick trusted, wrapping himself in Christ.
We’ll let St. Patrick speak for himself this time:
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left…
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Let us hear from you!
Everyone might be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but is there a saint from another cultural heritage you’d like to let people know about? Tell us in the com box below!