Philip Jenkins, who thinks that green beer as a remembrance of the great St. Patrick is an abomination of the message of the Gospel:
With all the patience at his command -- which was not immense --
Patrick told his critics about his extraordinary labors in a frightening
and often dangerous pagan society, while they were living comfortably.
He also stressed the practical realities of operating in this very
different kind of emerging Christian society, where gift-giving was a
standard part of life. Had he made gifts to influential leaders? He
certainly had, and would do so again. I may be ignorant and unlearned,
he says, but in winning this country, never doubt that I am doing God's
The defensive tone of the Confession is utterly lacking in Patrick's other surviving text, his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus.
After years of struggle, Patrick had won many Irish for Christ -- not
the overnight conversion of popular mythology, but more than enough to
be proud of. Suddenly, though, the ruthless soldiers of the British king
Coroticus attacked these Christian settlements, and right after a mass
baptism ceremony. Patrick's fury is easy enough to understand, all the
more so when we recall his own history. He knew at first hand what it
was like to see your homeland devastated by soldiers, and to be carried
off into slavery. Everywhere he looked in Ireland, he saw enslaved
Christian women who had been seized from their British homes. But these
latest horrors were the work of men who claimed to be Roman and
Patrick had probably never heard of St. Augustine, who lived a
generation before his time, but the questions he was asking would have
been familiar to the African saint. How could a state or a king boast of
Christianity, if their every action betrayed the faith, if they showed
neither mercy nor charity, even to fellow believers? If Coroticus did
not live according to the church and its laws, then he was worse than a
pagan, worse than a savage. His was not the City of God but the City of
Hell. Christian kingship -- Roman kingship -- was a title that had to be
earned. Christians? No, they were "rebels against Christ."
As for the murdered Irish Christians, they would dwell in Paradise, and "rule over wicked kings."
This March 17, then, forget the snakes and the green beer. Think of
the prophetic Christian leader who demanded that rulers live up to the
faith they professed, and who had no hesitation in damning violent
oppressors to Hell.
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