I spent much of January reading about Saint Patrick. I read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, which I loved because he is just so dang bold in his thesis. I mean, that's a topic sentence, eh? (And a catchy title.) Another great book was Philip Freeman's excellent biography of Patrick called St. Patrick of Ireland. The book I liked least was Stephen Lawhead's historical-ish/fictional account of Patrick called Patrick: Son of Ireland. In his story, he had Patrick become a druid during his years of slavery and then become a pseudo-Christian/druidic priest when he returned to Ireland. But...his lavish detail and characterization were a lot of fun to read.
Dispelling the myths:
- We have no idea if Patrick actually used a shamrock to teach the Trinity, although it's certainly possible. He never wrote about it. It's just one of those legends that's been around for eons.
- The "Lorica" or Breastplate of Patrick, which begins, "I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity..." was probably not written by Patrick as scholars date it back to around the 7th century (Patrick lived in the 4th). But it certainly captures the spirit of Patrick's teaching and confession.
-Of course, Patrick magically ridding the island of snakes is ridiculous.
-But the leprachauns...they're real! :)
The thing I love most about reading his letters is this: here is this Christian bishop and missionary who lived fifteen centuries ago, confessing the faith with urgency and orthodoxy. We are blessed to have his faithful witness speak across the ages to us.
Here is an excellent Trinitarian section from his Confessio. (From the translation of Patrick's letters by John Skinner, p. 77)
There is no other God—there never was and there never will be. God our father was not born nor did he have any beginning. God himself is the beginning of all things, the very one who holds all things together, as we have been taught.
And we proclaim that Jesus Christ is his son, who has been with God in spirit always, from the beginning of time and before the creation of the world—though in a way we cannot put into words. Through him everything in the universe was created, both what we can see and what is invisible. He was born as a human being and conquered death, rising into the heavens to be with God. And God gave to him power greater than any creature of the heavens or earth or under the earth, so that someday everyone will declare that Jesus Christ is Lord and God. We believe in Him and we wait for him to return very soon. He will be the judge of the living and the dead, rewarding every person according to their actions.
And God has generously poured out on us his Holy Spirit as a gift and token of immortality. This Spirit makes all faithful believers into children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.