Do You Really Know St. Patrick?

Ah, you say in your best Irish accent, “the lad is the patron saint of Ireland who drove those slimy snakes off the Cliffs of Blarney into the Irish Sea while wearing a shamrock on his Irish flat cap.”

St. Patrick, bishop

Uh no. Actually, born Maewyn Succat to Roman British parents, he was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16 and forced to work as a shepherd in Ireland. At 22, he converted to Christianity and escaped back to Britain. He was captured again by the French where he learned to become a cleric and missionary for, of all places, Ireland. Choosing the name Patricius, he had a vision that caused him to return to Ireland and eventually become their patron saint and bishop.

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

However, the journey from shepherd slave to Christian Bishop was not easy. He was often forced to leave to preach and live on small offshore islands where over time he gained enough followers to ensure his safety back on the mainland. He eventually converted the sons of Kings and witnessed the building of over 300 churches.

Ah yes, the snakes. There are early written records of a legend similar to the Biblical account in Exodus where Moses and Aaron face off with the Pharaoh’s sorcerers, staffs in hand. The staffs turn into snakes, and Aaron’s snake-staff consumes the Pharaoh’s snake staff to win the day. However, Patrick lived in the 5th century and the absence of snakes in Ireland has be recorded from as early as the 3rd century.

So what about the shamrock? It’s not impossible that St. Patrick actually used the 3-leaved Shamrock to introduce his converts to the concept of the Trinity. The Irish already had triple deities and held the number three with high regard, so Patrick’s use of the shamrock may have helped him win favor with the Irish.

All this said, in 1737, “The Wearing of the Green” was being played at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, a full century before the huge influx of Irish immigrants to New England after the great famine in mid-19th century Eire. St. Patrick’s Day was indeed destined to become an American tradition. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

The Simple Polish Nun

The story of a young Polish woman, Faustyna Kowalska, whose visions of Jesus Christ inspired devotion to the Divine Mercy is compelling, especially for those of us who have felt “led” to perform an act of mercy for someone else. Now, her story has been brought to the big screen in a very limited engagement in theaters in the U.S.

At just seven years old, Faustina felt a calling to the religious life. At 19, she had a vision of the suffering Jesus. Without even asking her parents’ permission, she responded by boarding a train for Warsaw with only the clothes on her back in order to join a convent. After multiple refusals, one mother superior finally gave her a chance if she was willing to work as a housemaid and pay her own way.

Movie portrayal of St. Faustina

Faustina eventually met the priest who was to become her confessor and encouraged her to write down in her diary her mystical experiences with the Christ Jesus. She wrote that Jesus appeared to her wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from His heart, then ask her to paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature “Jesus, I trust in You.” He promised that those who venerate the image will not perish. It was done, even thought she did not know how to paint.

How the image came to be painted, and how its image has changed the lives of those who venerate it up to this day is revealed in the movie Love and Mercy, now at local theaters for a very limited time. Access The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska book.

The Christmas season is an excellent time to learn and reflect on our own relationship with the Christ Jesus story. See the movie trailer and make up your own mind about whether you feel “led” to know more. Just click the Watch Trailer button in the Love and Mercy link above.

Blessings on this Christmas Season from all of us at the Stewardship Foundation.

Blind Obedience

In December, our thoughts are drawn to the event in Bethlehem that occurred over 2,000 years ago. We think about a virgin named Mary and how she gave birth to a child and laid him not in a warm incubator in a spotless maternity ward, but in a trough used for hay in a barn with no heat.

Christmas in the stableWe know this is the promised Redeemer, because we’ve been taught and because as believers we have faith that the story, while perhaps not newspaper reporter accurate, is true. But we’ve had years to figure this out. His first visitors were less informed, but were obedient to God’s word, and this is our lesson.

We recall and are humbled by who the Father chose to be his Son’s first visitors. Simple sheep herders, probably with their dogs and of course the new-born lambs that could not be left behind should wolves appear. They came because the angels told them to go—blind obedience to something they could not have understood.

Later, this stable-born Child and his Mother were visited by three kings who on another mission of blind obedience were seeking a royal child—the “king of the Jews.” Instead, on their knees they paid homage to a boy child born in a barn to parents who were obviously poor. And afterwards, refused to tell King Herod anything. Once again, obedient to a dream, they left for home by another path.

Can we be challenged by the shepherds and kings to say “yes” to God’s plan even though we do not understand fully the result of our obedience? At the Stewardship Foundation, we commit once again to be obedient to our charter in the coming year. Considering the state of the markets this month, it will take diligence and optimism. We are up to the task!

On behalf of staff and board, we pray that 2019 is a happy and rewarding year for you and your families. Peace and blessings from The Stewardship Foundation.