Happy St Patrick’s Day.

 HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY
 Did you know that St Patrick’s Day, is the second biggest festival celebrated in the world after Christmas?  Why?  Ireland, this small island on the edge of Europe has many diaspora all over the world.  And where ever the Irish are they remember the Irish Patron Saint, Patrick.  It is a day for the wearing of the green.
St Patrick’s Centre lit up with green lights.  St Patrick’s grave is situated in the graveyard of the Church behind this centre.
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Wherever you live in the world I am sure you have heard of St Patrick.  Maybe you have Irish ancestors.  We travel to Canada and we meet people there who love Ireland even though they have never been here.  Some of our friends there have some relative in their  family line that came from Ireland.
Many people come to visit Ireland wanting to see where their ancestors come from.  Even some presidents of America claim to have Irish ancestors.  Information on the Internet has helped people with their searches.  We have had American students visit Ireland and they break into tears when they see the homeland where their forebears lived.
The Irish are in different parts of the world for various reasons.  In the 1800s there was a terrible famine in Ireland.  The population dropped to 4 million, because of death and exile.  In the 1600s some Irish were sent into Europe and the East Indies as slaves by Cromwell.
Down through the years the young people left Ireland for work in England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and America.
Patrick came and lived among the Irish and through his love, and example he brought the love of God to the people.  It is said he used the Shamrock a small plant with three small leaves to explain the Trinity, three persons in the Godhead.  The Irish wear the Shamrock on St Patrick’s day.
Early Christians travelled to Scotland and down into Europe as far as Slovakia.  Brendan was in  Switzerland in 2012 to celebrate six hundred years since St Gallian went there from Ireland.
With living on an Island the Irish became sea faring people.  They built small wooden curraghs. The Irish monks travelled by small curraghs up the rivers of Europe.  St Brendan travelled with others to the land we now know as Canada on a boat made of wood and sealskins.
At one time in the nineteenth century there were eight million people living here.  Many lived in small holdings but were able to grow oats and potatoes, kept a few chickens.  A cow would have been kept for milk. They were able to live off their produce.  Porridge was made from the oats and the women made their own bread.  Soda bread and potato bread can only be bought in Ireland.
I grew up on a farm.  My mother baked bread, we had chickens, we had milk from the cows.  We did not go hungry.  Only on a Sunday did we have a chicken, a stew or soup. We lived well and dad and mum reared ten children.  We did not go hungry.  We were content.
We have a Christian heritage that has come down the generations from the days of St Patrick.  In the twentieth century many missionarys went from Ireland again to the nations, especially into India and Africa and set up schools and hospitals.   My mother’s sister worked in Nigeria around the 1960s.
Ireland had become infamous in the 1970s because of the war in Northern Ireland.  Injustice, bitterness, hatred, division and poverty erupted into war between people from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds.  What a shame it has brought to the name of Jesus.  Nations have looked at us and said God is love.  How come Christians are fighting one another.   In Russia and India people heard of the bombs and bullets.
In Chronicles the Word of God says “If my people will humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways I will heal their land.”  People began to pray.  I attended a woman’s prayer group.  We represented the different denominations in our country.  As we prayed we found the only One who brings forgiveness and reconciliation, Jesus.  Before he died on the cross he said about those who crucified him,  “Forgive them because they know not what they do”.  After thirty years the war ceased.  Thanks God for his mercy.
Ex President Clinton visited Derry recently and encouraged us that he is travelling all over the world to negotiate peace between warring groups.  He uses the example of the Northern Ireland as a place that lives in peace after thirty years of war.
May we travel again as missionaries of the Gospel, like St Patrick and bring the love of God, forgiveness  and reconciliation to the nations.
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