The Life for Me
It’s been a while since I’ve been afraid of pirates. I remember the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World that I visited when I as young. I also remember a cassette tape and picture book my parents gave me with songs sung by…well…pirates. They weren’t real pirates. They were actors singing their pirate songs for me. “Yo ho ho, a pirate’s life for me.” I remember being afraid of the pirates, but I kept listening to the songs and I kept leafing through the picture book along with the music. There was something about them that interested me.
I never imagined actually being taken prisoner by a pirate and forced to work in a foreign land against my will. But that’s really what pirates were up to for a lot of their checkered history. It’s not noble work, but it’s profitable. One famous captive of pirates was the person many will celebrate today (and likely through the weekend). Patrick was about sixteen and living in Britain when he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland against this will. There he tended sheep and did other forms of forced labor.
He explains in his autobiography, Confessio, that he talked to his God a lot while he was in captivity. He didn’t complain to his God. He explains that he got to know his God better in that time. And then something startling happened. He was awakened by a voice in his head one night. The voice said that a ship would be leaving soon and would take him to freedom. So young Patrick ran to the dock and found a ship that was willing to take him from his land of captivity. After a few years more of travel (and a miracle with some wild pigs), he made it home to his parents who had not seen him in six years. He was saved.
Stories about pirates and songs that they teach us from cassettes don’t tell the whole story. But this is true for a lot of things in life. The truth of captivity and being bound to something we wish we weren’t is a fact of life for many of us. But in those times, when it seems we are locked in a life we didn’t choose, many find an even deeper, more intimate connection to a source of strength.
This connection led Patrick back to the land of his captivity to help more of the people there in the way he felt he had been helped. He devoted his life to this work and many are grateful that he did. Today people celebrate this date when his life ended, not his birthdate. And I like that. We only know what our life is when it ends. Every day is a day to build the life that is for us. And maybe that means you want the life of the saint who forgives so beautifully and so fully like Patrick. And that sounds wonderful. But in the end, it’s still OK to wonder, as I do from time to time, whether it was always supposed to be the pirate’s life for me. Yo ho ho, friends. And Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
Rev. T. J.