From the Rev: Practicing Patrick
Today is a day celebrated around the world – the achievements of a man in bringing a message to an island are recognized at least in some part by the faithful and even faith-less. The man? Patrick – a kidnapped, slave who endured six years of forced labor before escaping. He later would return to share a message with those who had enslaved and mistreated him. The message? A Gospel of hope, Good News, of forgiveness offered by God for all who would listen and receive.
Saint Patrick, and his celebrated day of March 17, has (as many prominent figures do) elements of his story that are legendary (some say he and his disciples once were seen as a company of stags and by passed by a chief looking to kill Patrick), some that are fictional (did he really drive all the snakes out of Ireland?), and some that are true (he returned to the people who enslaved him and gave them God’s forgiveness). One of my favorite stories about Saint Patrick centers around his praxis of ministry. It is a philosophy and methodology that CrossTraining and its chaplains seek to employ in the different places where it serves.
Saint Patrick and his traveling company would move from village to village in Ireland spreading the Message of God to the people. With Ireland being tribally governed, Patrick and his colleagues did not always receive a warm reception from a village chief or the people. So, Patrick and his troupe would camp outside of a village and then during the day, they would go with the villagers to their places of “work” – here they would offer a blessing or prayer over those places – that God would bring forth His bounty. For those fishing, a prayer that the river or ocean would bring forth fish; for those hunting, a prayer that the forest would produce game; for those planting or harvesting, that the fields would have an abundance of grain. The villagers and chief began to see things change – as God worked through the blessings of Patrick and company the people became curious about this message of God.
In chaplaincy settings (sport and otherwise), much of the chaplain’s work is similar in scope. We enter into the work spaces and places of people and we ask for God’s favor, for His abundance to show forth. Instead of fields, forests, and streams a sports chaplain may ask for God’s favor in victories, achievements, and protection from injury and harm. And there maybe many in these contexts who are hesitant to receive the message – but as they begin to see the hand of God blessing the fruit of their labors, as they experience the compassion and care of a chaplain who is, essentially, an outsider, people become more curious, more receptive to hearing the message of God.
It is a work that, as chaplains, we hope and pray will be as impactful as a simple man like Patrick – who, being transformed by God in turn transformed an island and a people and left an impression that is forever remembered around the world. Pray for chaplains, for those who practice being like Patrick and the various villages and communities we serve.
Rev. Brad Kenney