St. Patrick left behind some valuable lessons for the modern Christian leader. (Pixabay)

Economists measure everything. WallSt.com looked at the expected economic impact of 2017's Saint Patrick's Day citing a variety of sources. WalletHub indicated that the total economic impact would be a record $5.3 billion. According to the National Retail Federation, the average celebrant was expected to spend $37.92. Roughly 56 percent of Americans were expected to celebrate the holiday by wearing green (83 percent), purchasing food (52 percent), purchasing beverages (41 percent), going to a party at a bar or restaurant (31 percent) and a variety of other activities.

Census data indicate that the first Saint Patrick's Day Parade occurred in New York city in 1762. Today's parade attacks two million people and is the largest in the world. In contrast, Dublin's parade attracts about 500,0000 people. Chicago's parade draws 400,000, but the Windy City also has the distinction of dyeing its river green in honor of the day and the Emerald Isle.

According to WalletHub, Saint Patrick's Day also has many undesirable distinctives. Thirteen million pints of Guinness are expected to be consumed. In the U.S., the holiday is the fourth-highest drinking day. Seventy-five percent of Saint Patrick's Day's fatal car crashes involve a driver who has consumed at least twice the legal limit. On the fateful day, alcohol-related car crashes claim a life an average of every 72 minutes. Since marketers have begun encouraging the celebration of Saint Patrick's Day into a week-long commemoration, impacts are likely to grow.

The celebration of Saint Patrick continues to veer from the man's life and purpose. The celebration has encompassed leprechauns, pots of gold, shamrocks, the color green, superstitions and lots of drinking. The real Saint Patrick, the reason for the holiday, is a person to be admired. He is a Christian hero. Scholars have found it difficult to separate fact from legend, but the fact that he made a huge impact on Ireland is irrefutable.  

The real Saint Patrick was responsible, in large part, for bringing Christ to Ireland in the fifth century. He was not the first missionary to Ireland, but his impact was great enough that he became known as the "Apostle of Ireland." He has never been officially canonized as a Roman Catholic saint but was a bishop in Ireland. He is currently venerated by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion and Lutheranism.

Patrick was born in Dumbarton, Scotland in approximately A.D. 387. He was the son of a Roman Catholic deacon and the grandson of a priest. Although he must have been raised in the faith, he was a nominal (or non-active) Christian. At the age of 16, his life radically changed. He was kidnapped by pirates, who took him to Ireland.

Patrick spent the next six years working as a shepherd and farm-laborer 200 miles from the coast. During this time, he became familiar with the language and culture of Ireland. More importantly, he used the solitude of a shepherd's life to develop his faith and draw closer to the Lord. After six years, he heard the Lord tell him his ship was ready. The Lord showed him the escape route through a vision (or dream). Patrick was obedient and escaped to Britain.

Upon arrival, Patrick continued to grow in his faith and became a priest. He was burdened by the fate of the Irish people. During the fifth century, Ireland was a pagan nation. A few years after Patrick's arrival in Britain, the Lord spoke to him again in a vision. Patrick heard the voice of the Irish say, "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us." With the call, he returned to Ireland as a missionary.

Life was difficult. The people did not want him. As a non-Irishman, Patrick did not enjoy the protection of the law. The king was against him. Eventually, the king's son believed. Wealthy women believed, and some even became nuns. The king accepted his message. Patrick planted his first church in Saul. He is reported to have started as many as 300 churches and baptized 100,000. In his own words:

"Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God." —Saint Patrick.

Lessons learned from Saint Patrick include:

1. Nominal (non-active) Christianity is insufficient,

2. Hearing the voice of the Lord is normal and necessary,

3. Preparation (formal and/or informal) is required to fully fulfill one's purpose and

4. Obedience (even under severe trial) is indispensable.

Saint Patrick's Breastplate is a prayer of protection often placed on shields:

"Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man 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," said Saint Patrick.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

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