Saint Patrick's Day and Treasures of Beauty
Hello, World! And Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
It has been a long while since I’ve posted. Between the last post and this have passed many full weeks. Weeks full of homework, people, airplanes, applications, supplications, silence, beaches, new ventures in cooking, and all the ins and outs that squeeze into the corners of life. I’m sure your weeks have been the same. But here I am at last, thinking Saint-ward thoughts.
I claim Irish blood (along with everyone and there sister on this lucky day). I am primarily Scottish and English, but slipped in my ethnic tapestry, there are at least a few Irishman. Furthermore, I have freckles, a bit of a temper, and a longlasting affection for the music-whatever-they-are Celtic Women. My case for being Irish is strong, as you can see.
For as long as I can remember I have relished Saint Patrick’s day. When I was in seventh grade I did a project on Saint Patrick, resplendent with pictures and quotes to spare. Patrick’s story of rebellion and exile, captivity and freedom, dreams and druids always captured my imagination. There is a wildness to the story that stirs me. Being in Dublin earlier this year, experiencing the cold and rugged land, and standing on the spot where Patrick baptized the first Irish converts only deepened my love of the life of this Saint.
In preparation for this cherished holiday, I ordered a translation of the two remaining manuscripts attributed to Patrick. It arrived just in time, and yesterday while on break from class I went to retrieve it. I was so eager to begin reading that I read most of the preface by John O’Donohue while walking back to class which almost resulted in my walking across the street with my nose still in the book. (note: Don’t try this at home, kids.)
In describing Patrick’s early years as a Christian, working as a captive slave and Shepard, O’Donohue wrote this:
“Pascal said that in difficult times you should always keep something beautiful in your heart. Patrick is able to survive these harsh and lonely territories of exile precisely because he keeps the beauty of God alive in his heart. The inner beauty of the divine intimacy transfigures outer bleakness” (O’Donohue, The Confession of Saint Patrick).
As class began and I tucked my book away in my bag, I tucked these words away too.
I believe that much of life and faith is characterized by exile and return. In my life, there have times of blissful homey-ness. In my faith, my family, and my relationships I have felt glad and peaceful. I have also felt the exile. Loneliness, hurt, separation, wandering in the dry and weary land where there is no water. And I find that even within the sweet moments is a sense of sweet melancholy and longing for the New Jerusalem. We are sojourners. But what shall we take for the journey?
“...You should always keep something beautiful in your heart.”
When I was small, my mother would talk about the “Treasure box” of my heart. The treasures she spoke of were the things I cherished, the books I read, the poetry and scripture I memorized, the memories I pondered. She wanted to nourish in my little girl spirit a love and a collection of beauty that traveled with me wherever I went.
As I’ve headed a few more steps down the road of my life, my treasure box has proved treasure indeed. When I have entered the exile of my life, I would turn to the scripture, the stories, the love, and the beauty stored away in my soul. My treasure box was my light of Eärendil, my light for dark places.
I believe Patrick had such a treasure and that at its core resided the person of Christ. After being kidnapped and taken to Ireland, Patrick had a conversion experience and was then sent to be the slave Shepard of a druid leader. Faced with days, weeks, months, and years as a lonely shepard he, like Mary “treasured these things within his heart,” deepening his love for the Lord of all and the land of rocks and green. In one passage, recounting his conversion, Patrick writes:
But after I had come to Ireland,
it was then that I was made to shepherd the flocks day after day, so, as I did so, I would pray all the time, right through the day. More and more the love of God and the fear of Him grew strong within me.
And as my faith grew, so the Spirit became more and more active...
Though I might be staying in the forest or out on a mountainside it would be the same; Even before dawn broke, I would be aroused to pray.
In snow, in frost, in rain, I was never slack but always full of energy.
It is clear to me now that it was due to the fervor of the Spirit within me.
Patrick’s time of exile is characterized by a cherishing of the word of God and the beauty of Christ. What had been planted grew deep roots as he sat and prayed fervently in the silence of the rugged fields. I believe those years of treasuring and waiting and praying are what provided the foundation of his powerful ministry. It all began by treasuring the beauty of Christ.
As I sit in my perch overlooking the rushing street beneath my apartment, I feel like Patrick. This semester is my sheep-field; it has been quiet and long at points, but I want to fill it with treasures. I want to sit and let roots grow deep. I want to fill quiet hours with prayers. I want to fill my treasure box for the journey.
So, friends, I hope your fill your treasure box. And here’s how I’m filling mine today...
With good books.
The Confessions of Saint Patrick. I’m excited to sit down with this book this afternoon.
With dear friends.
With Good movies.
Looking for a good movie about faith and beauty? Watch “The Secret of Kells.” It’s on Netflix. It’s a cartoon about the book of Kells. It is magical.
With good food.
If you want a great recipe for Soda bread.
And with a cherishing of the greatest gift of all...
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun rise warm upon your face,
and until we meet again may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.