Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Mormon Perspective on St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We like St. Patrick's Day around here.  It's a fun day to eat green pancakes, to watch Darby O'Gill and the Little People, and to pinch each other if someone forgets to wear green.  

In the past, we've used the legend of the Leprechaun as an excuse to secretly serve others, but we've never really gone into the religious roots of what to us is mainly celebrated as a secular holiday.  The reason being, that Mormons only worship and pray to God the Father, in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.  We do not pray to or worship saints, so learning about saints and observing their special days generally isn't part of the curriculum (although they are generally mentioned with gratitude for their contributions to Christian history and the Restoration of the Gospel in the latter days.)

As a result, celebrating St. Patrick's Day is purely a fun, secular observance.

However, I was *lucky* enough to receive this thoughtful email from my childhood friend Karen about how she answered her daughter's questions about St. Patrick's Day.  And I'm so glad that I did.  She showed me how I can pull more than mischief and chocolate gold coins out of this special day.

Here is what my friend Karen wrote: 

Lizbeth came home from preschool a few years ago pretty confused about "Satan Patrick's Day". I hadn't really thought about how to talk to her about Saints' days turned secular holidays, but on the spur of the moment, I decided how to explain it. 

We belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Saints are good people who try to be like Jesus and who won't deny their beliefs no matter how hard it is. We can do a lot worse than following the examples of Saints who lived long ago. They didn't have the restored gospel, but they carried the light of Christ and kept it burning during the Dark Ages, so that it would be there when Joseph Smith was born and the time was right.

Saint Patrick lived in Britain during Roman times. He was Christian, having been taught by his Grandfather. One day he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave by people who didn't know about Jesus. God helped him to escape a few years later, but he never stopped thinking about those people. He wasn't angry at them, he thought it was sad that they didn't know about Jesus. He went to a special school to learn to read and write and to learn all he could about the scriptures. Then he went back to Ireland and taught the people there all about Jesus. Saint Patrick was a good missionary, who practiced forgiveness in a very courageous way. 

This year on St. Patrick's day, you can celebrate with your kids by writing to missionaries, drawing pictures, making care packages with green cookies, and by committing to forgive those who hurt you, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ by letting our light shine through the darkness around us.

Thank you, Karen!  I love that we can look at this story and see a great example of forgiveness and unfailing love.  May we always be capable of such love.  In the years ahead, I believe that we will really need this kind of pure love of Christ, more than ever.

Coincidentally, writing letters to missionaries is just what we did today in church!  Thank you, Karen!

You can read more about St. Patrick here.

And here are some more Mormon Thoughts on St. Patrick's Day:

On Green Beer