Saint Patrick’s Day Checklist:
1) Get up, remember the date, find green.
2) Put on green.
3) Feel smug for being part Irish while everyone just wishes they were.
All was going according to plan until I got an email from a friend with a brief summation of Patrick’s life, then had to add another number.
4) Admit to self that you know almost nothing about your Irish heritage in general and St Patrick in specific. Feel like dirt for being smug in the first place. Fix problem by educating self.
In the process of said education regarding St Patrick, what struck me the most was that he was a slave for six years in Ireland. Six years. And then went back. Wow. Slavery is a terrible thing, so terrible that the word “terrible” doesn’t even come close to describing it, hence the overuse of the word terrible. Then I come to find out after achieving freedom through God, he felt called to go back and preach salvation in the land where he was held captive and convert the nation…which he did. Spectacularly.
Put in modern vernacular: respect.
That journey got me thinking in an oddly metaphorical way about slavery not in terms of bondage but in being bound, by which I mean being enslaved to a set of thoughts, ideals, or habits. In this respect, we are all slaves to something. For myself and my family, that slavery is (though soon shall be was) debt. Thanks to some solid advice by people who have been there and come through it, we have been able to pull ourselves out of that bondage and back into freedom, where we hope to remain forever. It wasn’t easy, but like any road you set yourself on, the key is to power through the rough stuff and get to the end. For us, the end was freedom and room to breathe, room many others don’t yet have, so for our freedom we are both thankful and humble.
Slavery is such a loaded word in America that I fear to use it, but since fear itself is a form of slavery, I feel I have to grit my teeth and say what needs saying instead of dancing around it like a group of lost British boarding school children around a campfire: we are all of us, every one, enslaved to something, most of us to many somethings. We are slaves to our emotions of anger, jealousy, and smugness; slaves to physical pleasures of eating, drinking, and the multitude of questionable “adult” desires; slaves to our time spent in pursuits of “needs” which really aren’t. Slaves, in other words, to those of the Devil and his kin. With he and his, there is no freedom, no room to breathe; when the Devil comes, it is always with chains. Find those chains, pray for them to be broken, and set yourself on the path to freedom from slavery.
My (bowler) hat off to St Patrick, may he pray for my soul, and the courage he had to face down his past and turn towards a better future. May all of us have his strength of conviction, both today and beyond.