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Examine Scripture

St. Patrick’s Day

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Three-Leaf Clovers…

While the rest of the country spends its day drinking Shamrock shakes, talking like a leprechaun, and inebriating themselves on green beer, I wanted to break from our normal Bible study and ensure that we, as Catholics, remember some of the history and legend behind this feast day.

St. Patrick was tasked with taking the Gospel to Ireland, and he spent his life there teaching the Gospels to the people.  There are stories of great miracles and works that he did while he was there, and he shared the Good News with both kings and peasants alike.  Ireland’s strong Catholic roots began with the work of St. Patrick.  

Teaching the Gospel to people who had never heard it before must have been difficult.  Imagine teaching the complexities of the Bible, especially topics like the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to a people who had not been exposed to it before.  Legend tells us that St. Patrick used three-leaf clovers to explain the Trinity, and in the Gospel of John, we find reference to the Trinity:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” -John 14:16-17, NAB

In this passage, Jesus clearly identifies both God the Father and the Holy Spirit (the Advocate and Spirit of Truth).  This is a difficult concept to grasp, and we are told that the world will simply not accept it.  Yet, St. Patrick found a great way to teach the people of Ireland about this profound truth.  He used this simple plant to explain a very complex topic, and it is for this reason that it has become a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day.  Obviously, most people focus on the “luck” that comes from a four-leaf clover, but I think the beautiful simplicity of what St. Patrick taught through the three-leaf clover means so much more.

Today, before we begin our celebrations, let’s take time to reflect on the work of St. Patrick, as well as the beauty and profound doctrine of the Trinity.  Without men and women, like St. Patrick, who were willing to devote their lives to evangelization in foreign lands, it is possible that you and I would not know the Gospel today.  Now that is something worth celebrating.

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