Every year on March 17, the Irish and the Irish-at-heart across the globe observe St. Patrick’s Day. There are festivals, parades, dancing, leprechauns, special foods, kissing, drinking, and a whole lot of green. When I was growing up, St. Patrick’s Day meant one thing – the importance of wearing something green to keep from being pinched all day long at school (before the concept of “personal space” and harassment lawsuits). But, what’s up with this holiday, really? What’s the meaning of this holiday and how does it relate to me (a Utah Mormon of Danish descent who doesn’t drink alcohol)? Who was the patron saint of Ireland? What is the Christian tradition behind this? I admit I’ve never known the answers to these questions nor gathered much of the “back-story”, so I decided to take the advice of LDS Apostle L. Tom Perry and celebrate this holiday “with a purpose.”
I found out there’s quite a lot to celebrate about Saint Patrick and the origin of today’s holiday! In fact, I discovered an exciting and incredibly epic historical account involving kidnapping, pirates, prayer, daring escape, conversion, sacrifice and miracles [happily, no snakes – that part’s pure myth].
In this case, the truth really is “cooler than fiction”. And it turns out, Saint Patrick’s Day is a whole lot more than “wearing green”.
The story of Saint Patrick is inspiring, and one that members of my church can appreciate and identify with. Although Mormons do not follow the Catholic tradition of a bestowal of Sainthood – which might seem a bit ironic since the official name for ourselves is “Latter-Day Saints” [which we define as “followers of Christ in the last days”, as opposed to “sainthood”], we do honor, admire and respect all of God’s children throughout history who were inspired to follow God and do good.
I am especially moved when I learn about countless souls who tirelessly worked and sacrificed, over centuries, to remember Jesus Christ, preach his Gospel, and to preserve the holy scriptures – all for the good of the world, and ultimately for each of us.
Saint Patrick would have been an awesome Mormon, just saying. 🙂 Despite great hardship and trials, he developed a personal testimony of Christ through prayer. He experienced the change of heart of conversion, he desired to follow God’s will and received personal revelation which guided him to spend the rest of his life choosing to have the faith to share the gospel message, despite great persecution and mortal peril.
The story of St. Patrick sounds very similar to countless Latter-day Saint conversion stories. The principles of personal prayer, following Christ, receiving personal revelation and living by faith are all essential teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We believe when we pray with a sincere heart, our Father in Heaven always hears and answers our prayers. He reveals truth and guidance. As Joseph Smith taught, when we come to God, He can come to us.
Indeed, the foundation of the restoration of our church began with a young boy who sought God’s will and help through prayer named Joseph Smith. Due to his faith and prayer, Joseph received a personal vision and was given a divine assignment from God – his life mission as a witness of Christ.
Joseph wore out his life striving to preach the gospel and bring people to Christ. He desired to follow God’s will even when he was given very difficult assignments, despite enduring great persecution, mortal peril and eventually the sacrifice of his own life. Like Maewyn Succat aka St. Patrick, Joseph Smith did all of this not because he was a saint, but because he was a man filled with the love of God and the Spirit of Christ.
The 13th Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states:
“We believe…If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, we seek after these things.”
I leave you with a lovely short video I sought after and thoroughly enjoyed watching about the inspiring story of Saint Patrick, produced by the Catholic church. I hope that today’s message will help you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with greater purpose. May we each choose to follow St. Patrick and Joseph Smith’s example to pray diligently, and seek God’s will for us – and then, no matter how difficult the answer or assignment may seem, have the faith and courage to go and do it. – MoSop
“There is a cost to discipleship, but it is a cost that Christ will help you to pay”