Happy St. Patrick’s Day! March 17th, also known as St. Patrick’s Day, is a day marked with celebrations of all kinds around the world. Many traditions include parades, leprechauns, shamrocks, green-dyed beverages, and even pinching people who forgot to wear green. But who was St. Patrick really? Did he really drive all the snakes out of Ireland? No. Is he the great-great-great grandfather of the leprechauns? No. Was he, like, super lucky? Definitely not. So, who is St. Patrick?
St. Patrick’s life story has more twists, turns, heartaches, and adventures than a Hollywood blockbuster. His life offers inspiration to modern Christians in many ways. Here are some of the highlights.
- Although raised in a Christ-loving family, Patrick had his doubts. So much so, he noted in his biography that early in his life he “knew not the true God.” If you struggle with doubts, take heart that Patrick did too, along with others in the Bible. Doubts do not extinguish faith, but often ignite it!
- While yet a teenager, Patrick’s village in Great Britain was raided by Irish marauders. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and forced into slavery by an Irish chieftain named Milchu. Life can certainly be hard, if not cruel. God’s divine purposes are often gift-wrapped in trials and tribulations. In many ways, Patrick’s story mirrored that of the patriarch Joseph, who understood God was always working for his good, even in the midst of the trials of his life.
- Patrick was enslaved as a shepherd for six years. Achingly alone and desperate, he began to call out to the God he once questioned. He cultivated a deep and powerful prayer life, and as a result, found his faith in Christ. Like a magnet, prayer draws us closer to God and God to us. Much like King David, Patrick learned to heed God’s call to pray.
- Patrick eventually escaped his captors and found his way back to his family. He entered into seminary and after several years became an ordained priest. Through a vision, God called Patrick to return to Ireland, to the land of his worst fears, and to share the Gospel with the Irish people. Where some may have run the other way, Patrick accepted God’s mission with the kind of forgiveness and love Jesus described in Matthew 5:43-48.
- Upon arriving back in Ireland, the divine purposes of Patrick’s past were revealed. Because of his years of captivity, Patrick was fluent in the Irish dialect, customs, and culture. Knowing Ireland was a clan-based society, he strategically endeavored to win the hearts of the clan leaders for Christ. With the clan leader’s influence, the entire clan was more easily won to Christ. Miraculously, one of his earliest converts was Milchu, his former slave master!
Patrick faithfully carried out his ministry in Ireland until his death on March 17th. While the year of his death is debated, many scholars agree it was 462 AD. It is estimated that Patrick ministered in Ireland for nearly 40 years. During this time, it is said Patrick baptized 120,000 people and helped build 300 churches.
This year, on March 17th, I hope you will remember the life of Patrick. A former doubter and slave, a man tested by the fire of trials and tribulations, a prayer warrior who followed God’s call, and a strategic missionary who changed an entire country for Christ. It certainly is a day worth celebrating!
“Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
An excerpt from “The Breastplate,” a prayer by St. Patrick
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!