March 30, 2020

St. Patrick's Day Reflections - Guest Post by Robert Stermscheg

St. Patrick’s Day is a special day indeed. Commemorating the day and its patron saint can be traced back throughout the centuries. It has particularly evolved over the last hundred years to include much celebration and revelry, but largely ignoring its foundation, that of introducing Christianity to its people. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world by all sorts of Irish adherents and revelers. Many cities and towns honour the venerable Saint by holding three days of music & culture festivals.
Even the use of green ribbons and shamrocks stems from as far back as the 1680s. It’s always been fascinating to me, how those of no traceable Irish ancestry can fit right in, taking full advantage of the regalia and celebrations. And then there are those add-ons over the years: the leprechaun, the pot of gold and the promise of good fortune. It’s interesting how these harmless oddities have over time been incorporated into the folklore and have slowly replaced the original meaning of the celebration: Christianity in Ireland
I’m not of Irish ancestry but I can appreciate how those that mark their calendar look forward with anticipation to March 17th and its festivities. As so often happens, I was looking for an anecdote in an old datebook and stumbled upon an entry that surprised me. During that particular week in 1984, I was quite sick – with the flu. There I was, off from work, fighting flu symptoms, in effect quarantined from neighbours and friends. As I read through my notes, it dawned on me how roughly 35 years later, people are experiencing something similar, but on a far more serious level. Whereas I contracted a common strain, a mild case of flu virus, that is not the case today.
Watching the news, it’s a sober reminder of the misery cruise passengers are having to endure these days. They’re dealing with a strain of corona virus – covid19. From what we (non-medical personnel) understand, this latest virus originated at an open-air market in China. Indicators vary, with some patients experiencing mild symptoms, while others like the elderly and infirm, quickly succumb to the disease and require hospital treatment. Sadly, death has factored into a few cases, a sober reminder of our human frailty.
Looking back to 1984, I was a young man and in good health. I was fortunate in that my fever and discomfort quickly subsided and that only three days later I was feeling normal and already back to work. I had no fears that the malady would linger, or worse, spread to those around me. What a stark contrast to what is happening today. The corona virus is indiscriminate and spreading rapidly, ignoring physical and political borders. To highlight one example, unprecedented measures are being taken by the Italian government in northern Italy, in an attempt to curb the spread of this highly infectious virus. People all over the region are frightened and rightly so. Yes, the circumstances don’t look great, particularly if you’re in the midst of an outbreak and are quarantined.
Basically, we have three choices: rebel, resign or surrender. Choosing to rebel is not a great option. In effect – I don’t care what others do, I’m going ahead with my plans. Resignation isn’t much better, e.g – life is hard and there’s no future. Surrender sounds similar but it really isn’t.  In summary: face the reality and surrender to God. Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up.
            “We choose to actively trust God….and bow our stiff necks to Him. We don’t demand that God plays by our rules.”       Dr. Rob Reimer in DeepFaith   
So, what does all of this have to do with St. Patrick’s Day? I’d like to think that it’s a good reminder – an invitation if you will – to accept that there are lots of things beyond our control. But, like Saint Patrick, we can surrender our fears to God’s will and trust that He will see us through.
The pot of gold, even it were attainable, is fleeting at best and will not meet our deepest needs; only God can. A better way is to claim the psalmist’s promise:
               “He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2


  1. Thank you for this post, Robert!

  2. Thanks, Robert, for your blog. I found your three responses to Covid-19 very illuminating: rebel, resign or surrender, and that surrendering means facing the reality and surrendering to God. My prayer is that, "like Saint Patrick, we can surrender our fears to God’s will and trust that He will see us through."


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