How to Drive Out Snakes: Lessons from a guy who wasn’t even Irish.
Sometime in the fourth century Patrick, a sixteen year old boy, was captured and sold into slavery with a number of other Welsh people. Yep, he was Welsh. So Patrick’s first encounter with Ireland was not one of shamrocks, beer and drinking songs. It was actually an encounter with violence, conflict and for Patrick, suffering. It is a harsh introduction to the people for whom he would one day be remembered.
Nevertheless, Patrick probably remained in slavery for 6 years or so before he escaped. He returned to his family in Wales and there entered the Church. Years later, after having been ordained bishop, he returned to the land of his enemies to serve them. Voluntarily. He went to genuinely, make peace in a place where he had know pain.
While he may not have actually chased dangerous slithering reptiles off the island, there is a still a sense in which Patrick shows us how to drive out snakes from our lives. One doesn’t chase out dangerous little threats with Gandalf’s staff or a piper’s pipe. One has to change the whole ecosystem. Transformation is not simply taking dangerous things away but by introducing a new goods to fill a space with a different kind of life.
Patrick turned great enmity into redemption. He refused to see his enemies as only that. He returned, literally, to a place of resentment specifically to offer new hope for that place and that people. He brought new life to chase out the would-be snakes of hatred and animosity. Patrick spent his life exorcising the little demons in his life and ended up tilting history.
Wishing our world took seriously the exemplars of forgiveness we have had in our past, so that our future could be less violent and more peaceful.
Toward eupan ~
~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.