Saint Patrick was that Irish guy who chased the snakes out of Ireland? Right? Nope!
Well, I can’t speak for the snake part, but Saint Patrick was not Irish! And for once, a Christian didn’t go into a country forcing the indigenous people to become Christians. Yet, his faith changed the Emerald Isle forever.
Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class family at the end of the 4th century. When Patrick was a teenager, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to the head of an Irish clan, who put him to work as a shepherd. He was a slave! A victim of human trafficking. Think about it!
Back home in Britain, Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, but he didn’t believe in God. But now — isolated and lonely — Patrick began seeking out a relationship with his creator. In his confessions, he wrote, “I would pray constantly during the daylight hours” and “the love of God surrounded me more and more.”
Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, “You are going home. Look — your ship is ready.” Patrick escaped and walked 200 miles to the Irish coast where he boarded a ship and traveled home. At home with his family, Patrick recognized that God was calling him to become a priest (eventually a bishop). Then, one day, thirty years after escaping from slavery, Patrick, out of a great love for the people of Ireland returned to the Emerald Isle.
Ireland was a violent and barbaric place at this time. Human sacrifice was commonplace. Patrick understood the danger and wrote: “I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved — whatever may come my way.” And yet, his love for the Irish also shines through his writings where he worried constantly for them — not just for their spiritual welfare, but for their physical welfare too.
Because of his days spent in slavery in Ireland, Patrick understood the Irish in a way that no other foreigner could. He respectfully helped them make sense of their ancient stories and encounters with divine beings and God. Through his example, he brought a peace they had never known before. Because of Patrick, the Irish both put down their weapons and outlawed slavery. That’s even better than driving out snakes. Or, perhaps, it is the same thing as driving out the snakes!
Because of Patrick’s love for those who enslaved him, the Holy Spirit used him to transform a whole nation. Being the hands and feet of Jesus, Patrick took seriously Jesus example: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you” — Jesus, John 14:27.
April Love-Fordham is blogging about LOVE in 2018.
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