“I am Patrick, a sinner, most uncultivated and least of all the faithful and despised in the eyes of many.” Patrick of Ireland
Patrick of Ireland would not recognize the world of 2010 compared to the one he lived in around 387 to 461 A.D. If Patrick were alive today, I cannot help but think he would be a bit put out with the title of saint and the celebrations held in his honor. Patrick of Ireland lived a life consecrated to Christ alone, a life given to see his glorified Savior.
Today parades are underway, Irish whiskey flowing, shamrocks shining, leprechauns leaping, and many are wearing green. Celebrations such as these bring little honor to a man who gave his life to see souls saved from hell. His life was much more than it has been degraded to in today’s society. Most do not know his powerful testimony–a man of God whose life is much more compelling than legends.
Growing up in an affluent home in the Roman province of Great Britain, Patrick’s life was filled with servants and carefree living. He was not a believer in Christ. Patrick’s life changed in an instant when he and other boys were kidnapped by Irish raiders who came into town. This practice was not uncommon and deeply feared among citizens. One thing was clear: no one kidnapped ever returned–ever. Patrick’s captors sold him as a slave to a farmer in Ireland. For a 16 year old who had never known hard work, the treatment was doubly harsh as he was not prepared physically for his new life. For six years he tended sheep with rags barely protecting his body and starvation always close at hand. It was during this time that he came to know Christ. Much like David of the Old Testament, Patrick used his time as a shepherd to know God intimately. He learned God’s voice and how to depend upon Him for everything. After six years in captivity, the Lord spoke to Patrick in a dream instructing him to go to the coast where a boat would be waiting to take him home.
Patrick faced two major obstacles: death if caught escaping and a treacherous 200-mile trek. Stepping out in faith, he began his dangerous journey with no map, guided only by the Holy Spirit. As God had said, a boat awaited. When he asked if could go with the boatmen, the leader said no. Dejected and wondering what to do, he began to pray. As he was praying, one of the boatman called out for him to join them.
Patrick was the first person his village knew to return home from captivity. His old life, while comfortable, could not hold him. He began once more to hear the voice of God, this time calling him back to Ireland. The once young captive now returned to Ireland to share the Gospel that would set captives free from sin and death. Anointed by God, Patrick often felt unqualified because of his lack of formal education in the scriptures. Despite his insecurities Patrick led thousands to Christ. His method of evangelism was scorned and he was viewed as a radical by church leaders outside Ireland. Attempts were made to bring him in line with church form and tradition, but he resisted.
Patrick is believed to have died March 17, 461. It is interesting to note that following his death, while the rest of Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages, Ireland experienced its Golden Age of learning. During his ministry, Patrick placed emphasis on learning to read and write Greek and Latin and using abbeys and churches as schools. Following his death scholars, artists, and men of learning came from around the world to Ireland. It was during this time that beautiful illuminated manuscripts were created and advancements were made in science, math, and astronomy. Patrick is called a saint, but he probably wasn’t too interested in titles. His life was lived to promote Christ, not himself. If he were alive today, he would be evangelizing a lost world–probably along a parade route. Praise God for sending Patrick to Ireland and using him to share the Gospel that affected generations of families. Pray today for the lost in your country–and how you can be a modern-day Patrick.
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Luke 16:15
“If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they may despise me.”
“Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” — Patrick of Ireland
An excellent family dvd to learn more of Patrick of Ireland is Patrick starring Liam Neeson as narrator and Gabriel Byrne as the voice of Patrick. I checked it out at the library and was impressed with the compelling docu-drama.
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