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Saint Patrick — Could He Be One Of Us?

Everyone ought to know some facts about Patrick — not just the Irish. For example, you would be surprised to learn that the Celtic Church in which Patrick served was more Lutheran than Roman Catholic. And this too, that “saint” simply meant “missionary”–the Celts did not canonize their members or clergy.

There’s more. Earlier in this century much was brought to light about these early Christians–thanks to historians and scholars like Archibald B. Scott, W. Douglas Simpson, and F. R. Webber. They have shown these Christians to have been an intensely biblical, mission-minded, out-reaching church which flourished in the British Isles and beyond. For almost 500 years (from AD 420 to 890) they reached out to parts of present-day France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy.

Celtic Christianity began and continued among those who had little sympathy for developments in the Latin (or “Italian” church). Martin of Tours, opposer of Arianism and defender of the Nicene Creed, set up his “Logo-Tigiac” (Candida Dasa, or bright white house) as a training center (not a monastery). From that place issued forth many missionaries. St. Patrick was active by AD 430. He was never at any time a communicant member of the Latin church.

Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17) will not fall on a Sunday again until the years 2002, 2008, and 2013. This will give pastors time to think about including him in a sermon. And perhaps to learn to sing “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate” (hymn): “I Bind Unto Myself Today The Strong Name Of The Trinity!” Let paraments and vestments be green! Put on a shamrock! This man deserves mention with honor in Lutheran parishes.

Confessional Lutheran Connections!

Why? Well, for one thing, because his (Celtic) liturgy was more like ours than Rome’s–with vernacular Invocation, Glorias, Creeds (including Athanasian), Offertory, Sanctus, Lord’s Prayer, Words of Institution, Agnus Dei, and Close Communion! Yes, even among the several Celtic groups there were doctrinal disagreements; participation in the Holy Supper was closely and jealously guarded.

Why else? Because they were a maverick group, intensely independent, bound to Justification by Faith and the Great Commission, to promotion of full biblical doctrine, with the Cross of Christ at the center. They had their own Easter date. There was no tonsure, no ruling territorial bishop, no political goal, no papal jurisdiction, no veneration of Mary, no intercession of the so-called saints, no canonization, no purgatory, no works supplemental to Absolution (so as to make it more “valid”), no transubstantiation, no withholding of the cup, no traditions held alongside of Scripture.

Why else? Their missionary vigor was unparalleled. They had a chain of schools called “muinntirs” (origin of -minster?) which brought forth missionaries, not pastors. These men were largely “awakeners,” going out in pairs on long preaching trips.

Sure, it is a crying shame how things have degenerated, how history gets twisted, even among Christians. Some tie “the luck of the Irish” to a four-leaf clover. Patrick knew nothing of this. He used the three-leaf plant as a simple though feeble reminder of the Trinity. And the snakes? For Patrick it meant chasing the devil and his henchmen out of whatever country, sending them back to hell where they belong.

Patrick and the Celts would have liked confessional Lutheranism. Today they would wake us up–to history, to mission endeavor, to doctrinal clarity, to the proper application of Law and Gospel, to getting men ready to meet their God and Savior.

Could he be one of us? He most certainly was not one of THEM, if you know what I mean.

–Pastor Warren Fanning