Monday, March 12, 2018

St. Patrick

Patrick’s story is pieced together like a quilt from many historical documents, letters, and books. 

Patrick was raised in Britain in probably the late 4th Century AD, son of a deacon and grandson of a priest. The exact dates are unknown. After all, it wasn't like anybody thought, "Hey, this baby will be a great saint. We should record his birth date."

At about age 16, Patrick was kidnapped by pirates, who took him to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. During the six years of his confinement, he worked as a shepherd. His master Milchu was a high priest of the Druids

St.Patrick -- When you think about it,
stained glass is sort of like a quilt. . .

During his captivity, Patrick devoted himself to prayer and became a very devout Christian. He had a vision, in which he saw the children of Ireland reaching out their hands to him. And so was born in him the desire to become a missionary to Ireland. 

In a dream, a voice promised him that he would find the way home to Britain. After escaping from slavery, he made his way to a port and persuaded some sailors to let him sail with them. But after three days they all had to abandon ship off the coast of France. They wandered for four weeks, covering 200 miles, before Patrick was reunited with his family. 

Free at last, Patrick returned to France to study for the priesthood, under the missionary St. Germain. In about 418, he was ordained a deacon. In 432, he was ordained as a bishop. Pope Celestine I then sent him to Ireland to support the faithful and to convert the non-believers. 

Ireland didn’t exactly welcome Patrick with a parade — he and his message were met with resistance. But in time the Gospel spread through Patrick’s preaching and writings and the work of missionaries in the area.

Patrick incorporated some of the local customs and rituals into their worship. It may be Patrick who introduced the Celtic Cross, which combines a symbol of sun-worship with the Christian cross.

In his missionary career, Patrick made many converts to faith. He founded monasteries and created councils. He died in about 461 in Saul, Ireland, and was buried in Downpatrick, County Down. The impact of his ministry continues to this day. We celebrate this amazing missionary  and all of Irish culture  on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th.

St. Patrick's grave, St. Patrick's Chapel

Many legends grew up about this great man. The most popular is that Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Another says that he taught people about the nature of the Trinity by using a shamrock. 

As you can see, some pieces are missing from the patchwork of Patrick's life. There are many things we don't know.

But to me, the most extraordinary thing about Patrick is that he returned to the scene of his captivity to bring freedom in Christ to all who would receive the message. I am reminded of Elizabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint, who worked as missionaries among the jungle tribe that had murdered their husbands. 

It takes a special kind of person to do good to those who have done terrible things to us. And that is the true embodiment of the Christian Gospel.

Image credits:
  Postcard: Public Domain
  Stained glass, St. Patrick Catholic Church, Junction City, 
      Ohio -- Author: Nheyob
  Green Celtic Knot:  Author: Petr Vodicka,  Public Domain
  Celtic Cross:  Author: Petr Vodicka,  Public Domain
  St. Patrick's grave -- Author: Alexander P. Kapp    
  St. Patrick with a shamrock, stained glass --  Author: Andreas F. Borchert    
  Shamrocks -- Public Domain

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