The Six Nations Rugby Tounament is drawing to a close. In an Irish pub close to where I used to work every match day during the tournament saw large numbers of green rugby shirt wearing men (and some women) gathering to watch the match. A fair amount of Guinness was also consumed. St Patrick's day was also marked in a similar fashion: green was the predominant colour, shamrock was in abundance, Irish folk music and the ubiquitous Guinness.
I wonder what St Patrick would have made of these festivities! He was born in Britain and taken into captivity as a slave by a raiding party from teh West Coast of ireland. During this period he moved from knowing about the Christian God to knowing the Christian God. After a period in France he returned to Ireland as a bishop and set about establishing a monastic foundation and travelling throughout Ireland telling people of the love of God. His influence on teh Irish people exists to this day and spread from Ireland to, initially, the West Coast of Scotand and from there to the northern parts of England. The Celtic saints of Lindisfarne and Iona were all influenced by Patrick.
St Patrick received much persecution but throughout never lost that sense of the love of God that was always with him. One of the great Celltic hymns attributed to St Patrick expresses this well.
Christ be with me, Christ within me
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love me
Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.
On the occasions that I did go to the Irish pub one of the things that struck me was the warmth of hospitality even though I was not wearing the green! This, St Patrick would have recognised. and in his hymn talked about finding Christ in that hospitality we share.
Happy St Patrick's Day