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Column

CLERGY CORNER

In his time, St. Patrick led parade to peace, love

You might think, when looking at my last name, that my heritage is of Germanic origin. Truth be told, years ago, someone in my family strayed from the Celtic tribe and entered into an alliance with a German named Baumann.
Whether or not one actually traces their roots back to an Irish family tree, is not this weekend the time of year when we all become Irish? What fun it is to dress in green garb, dye our hair green, eat green food and drink green beverages. Acquiring a few green tattoos may now be added to the festivities. Undoubtedly, we all try to become Irish tenors as we sing a verse or two of “Danny Boy,” “Molly Malone,” “Black Velvet Band” or “The Fields of Athenry.”
Our beloved Newport starts to become Irish as pages of our calendar turn to the month of March. We are invited to enter into the Irish way of being as festivities are advertised and appear in local news publications. Articles about Newport’s Irish history and pictures of Irish festivities past and present abound. Plans for the annual parade are made, the parade grand marshal is chosen and fresh green stripes are painted on the streets outlining the parade route through the city.
We want to be Irish and we convince ourselves that we are just that, if only for a few hours or a few days.
We dedicate March 17 as St. Patrick’s Day, a time designated to honor the patron saint of Ireland and the date believed to be the day of his death in 461. Young Patrick was raised in on the west coast of Roman Britain. His introduction to Ireland was as a slave, having been kidnapped at the age of 16 by Irish raiders. The torments of his enslavement served to strengthen his faith as a Christian. While imprisoned, Patrick dreamed of escape, fulfilling his dream when he successfully escaped and returned home.
Despite the physical and emotional scars of his experience, Patrick returned a Christian filled with zeal and a profound faith in Christ. As he studied for the priesthood, he had a series of dreams in which he heard voices that were calling out to him, “We beseech thee to come and walk once more among us.”
After studying for the priesthood, he returned to Ireland in 432 as a bishop of the church. His 30 years as an itinerant bishop in Ireland were devoted to bringing the message of the gospel. Despite the previous injustices he endured, upon returning to Ireland, Patrick honored his faith by bringing reconciliation and conversion to the spiritually hungry. He baptized tens of thousands of believers and ordained hundreds of priests (“All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for Our Time,” edited by Robert Ellsberg).
Patrick converted thousands to lives of faithful living because he was able to convert his unjust experience of slavery and torment into a life of peace, reconciliation and love. He put his anger and bitterness aside and demonstrated God’s love for all people.
Let us take a lesson from the story of Ireland and St. Patrick. Where once there was a heart for injustice and slavery, there became a nation fostered and nurtured in God’s love. Where once there was a young boy who had lived the unimaginable, there became a man dedicated to reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. I believe this piece of world history is what we celebrate when we gather together to sing, to dance, to march and to worship on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Christ be with me,
“Christ before me,
“Christ behind me …
“Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
“Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
“Christ in every eye that sees me,
“Christ in every ear that hears me.”
The Rev. Rebecca Baumann leads St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Newport. For more information, visit www.gbgm-umc.org/stpaulsnew.... The Clergy Corner, written by various clergy in Newport County, appears each week in The Daily News.
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