Yesterday was the annual observance of St. Patrick’s Day. As you likely know, very little of what we (culturally) do on this day has anything to do with him. Except the connection to Ireland.
We have no control over our legacy. I doubt that Patrick thought that he would be remembered on a day full of leprechauns, shamrocks, and green beer. Many of us – especially as we enter middle-age and beyond – think about our legacy. Even if we don’t lead nations or multinational corporations. But none of us, despite our dreams, can control what future people will think of us or remember. There is great value in considering the legacy we leave our families, churches, communities and the world. There is also great value and perhaps relief in remembering how little we can control it!
There is more than one way for something to happen. As a Protestant Christian I do not understand fully the canonization process of the Roman Catholic Church. However I find it interesting that Saint Patrick is such out of tradition and practice rather than a formal canonization process (for example, the one that will recognize Mother Teresa as one). Most of us know the processes we know. We have learned to do things a certain way. We have experienced processes and forces that, by our participation in them, reinforce our notion of THE way to do things. Or THE way things work. But they may not be THE way after all.
Bigger dreams always trump smaller ones. When was the last time anyone celebrated Palladius’ Day? Exactly. Palladius was the first bishop of Ireland who focused on the existing Christian community in Ireland and combating the influence of the indigenous religion upon it. Even people who do not share in these two men’s Christian faith can appreciate the vast difference between Palladius and Patrick. Rather than seeing himself as caretaker and protector, Patrick set out to spread his faith to the entire land of Ireland. Not only did he evangelize Ireland but he established systems that would nurture and grow what he had done. Palladius is all but forgotten – Patrick is not.