ST PATRICK & BOLIVIA
My introduction to the Irish was through some of their cultural icons: James Ussher, Edmund Burke, U2, Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, George Best, Liam Brady etc. My experience in Bolivia has helped me appreciate the Irish people even more, especially with reference to St Patrick.
Several years ago in a visit to Ireland (thanks to an invitation extended by SAMS Ireland and SAMS GB) I found similarities between the Irish and Bolivians. At their best, there is a charm - a happy go lucky spirit and a sense of fun which characterizes both cultures. Perhaps it comes from their common experience of being surrounded by larger nations with an imposing agenda. In Santa Cruz, Bolivia we have 2 Irish bars and restaurants.
And I also discovered the relevance of St Patrick to the Bolivian Anglican Church. Hence I have chosen to mark the Bolivian Beat with Patrick's Cross.
Patrick was a missionary bishop with a heart for the people whom he served. The work in Bolivia requires missionary workers and a national leadership (including bishops!) with a deep love for the people they serve - a willingness to honor to not only the culture but to also understand and help Bolivian people realize their aspirations. The sensibility of identifying with the tragedy and the triumphs of the Bolivian narrative is also an imperiative. Patrick embodied these missionary values.
During my trip to Ireland I visited St Patrick's cathedral in Armagh and saw the place where he is purportedly buried. Patrick's life story at times resembles a movie or a TV series. I lifted these paragraphs from a website (http://www.biography.com/people/st-patrick-9434729):
When St. Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by Irish pirates. They brought him to Ireland where he was sold into slavery in Dalriada. There, his job was to tend sheep. Saint Patrick's master, Milchu, was a high priest of Druidism, a Pagan sect that ruled religious influence over Ireland at the time.
St. Patrick came to view his enslavement as God's test of his faith. During his six years of captivity, he became deeply devoted to Christianity through constant prayer. In a vision, he saw the children of Pagan Ireland reaching out their hands to him. With this, he grew increasingly determined to free the Irish from Druidism by converting them to Christianity.
His sacrifice, simplicity and power pervades the atmosphere of the Cathedral in Armagh which bears his name.
Patrick was a reputed evangelist who prayed for the sick, cast out demons and who taught God's Word. No, he was not a cessationist. He used the 3 clovered shamrock flower to communicate the truth of the three persons of the Trinity ¡Legend has it that he emptied Ireland of its snakes! Here is another quote describing his work:
Upon his arrival in Ireland, St. Patrick was initially met with hostile resistance. But St. Patrick quickly managed to spread Christian teachings far and wide. Through preaching, writing and performing countless baptisms, he convinced Pagan Druids that they were worshiping idols under a belief system that kept them enslaved. By accepting Christianity, he told them, they would be elevated to "the people of the Lord and the sons of God."
The Cathedral of St Patrick, the centre of the Church of Ireland, is not imposing but a testimony to the man's practicality and effectiveness. He raised a community of monks, and the Cathedral we see today in Armagh was built around this monastic community, during the 5 century. It is very likely that monks were trained to spread the gospel, build disciples and to recieve the needy. A strong sense of community in Christ Jesus will always reach out to the lost.
One cannot but sense the sacredness of Patrick's inspiration in the Cathedral sanctuary and grounds - death has not silenced his message and testimony of Christ, to the world.
May the Lord grant us grace to learn from Patrick's example