If you’re an American with Irish heritage, you’re in great company. According to United States Census Bureau data for 2010, 34.7 million U.S. residents reported having Irish heritage. This large number may account for the reason the entire month of March is dubbed Irish-American Heritage Month, with March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, being the ultimate celebration of all things Irish.
I’m not Irish, but I’ve got lots of Irish friends and can’t count the number of times I’ve cheered, “May the luck of the Irish be with ya!” alongside them to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. And, I still wear green to avoid the St. Patty’s day pinch!
As a child, I loved stumbling upon the rare four leaf clover, clutching it excitedly to my chest and proudly informing my mother, “Look! Now I’ll have good luck!” Four leaf clovers and shamrocks are two widely recognized Irish symbols. While the four leaf clover symbolizes luck, it’s three leaf counterpart, the shamrock, carries great religious significance.
Saint Patrick is widely known as the Patron Saint of Ireland, as he was the chief missionary responsible for bringing Christian teaching and the Gospel to the lush, green country.
According to AmericanCatholic.org, he was captured by Irish raiders and sold into slavery at the age of 16. After six years, he escaped to France, where he was a consecrated bishop at the age of 43. His great desire was to share the Gospel in Ireland and a dream finally took him there.
He traveled the Irish countryside and preached for 40 years, living most of his life in poverty until he finally died on March 17, 461. Hence, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 as a testament to his life and death.
The Shamrock and the Trinity
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” —1 John 5:7
While the word “trinity” is not used in the Bible, as Christians we embrace the biblical teachings of the Godhead consisting of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus was God in the flesh and after His resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us. These three are one triune God, with the same essence, equal in glory.
St. Patrick used the Irish three leaf clover, the shamrock, to illustrate the Biblical concept of the Holy Trinity. The shamrock itself is one plant, with three leaves, or tips. God is one Being, with three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The principle of the Holy Trinity is the very core of our Christian faith, and St. Patrick wisely used a native Irish plant to draw an analogy of a critical spiritual truth. The religious symbolism of the shamrock carried forward across many centuries and is still recognized today.
Living His Legacy
“He said to them, “Go into all the world, and preach the Good News to the whole creation” —Mark 16:15
St. Patrick converted thousands of souls in his 40 years of travel within Ireland before he died. His tireless devotion and love of God should be a brilliant example to all of us. Along with Irish pride, we should, above all, display our Christian pride on a day that honors such a humble and reverent man. We should bear witness of Christ’s love in every personal and professional interaction we have and proudly preach the Good News of the Gospel when faced with the opportunity.
This doesn’t mean we need to browbeat everyone around us with scripture. Living a life of humility and service can be a beacon to many people who are hurting, desperate and lost.
Instead of relying on “luck” to pave the way toward our future, we should place our faith and trust in God to guide us in every facet of our lives. We should also be determined to live a life of love and compassion that meets others right where they’re at so we can foster faith instead of fear, offer hope to the hopeless, and bring help to the needy and healing to wounded souls. In this regard, any random act of kindness we bestow upon someone else may have a lasting impact that offers living proof that good things do happen and love, not luck, has everything to do with it.