March 17 is the internationally celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day. So slap on your green shirt, dodge the leprechauns, and drink green beverages. Right? Not so much. Though these traditions seem normal, having been ingrained in us from youth, they have nothing to do with Ireland’s Patron Saint.
As mentioned in Part 1, Saint Patrick became a believer in Jesus as a teenager whereupon he was taken captive by Irish raiders, who sold him into slavery. Patrick was a slave for six years before escaping two hundred miles to a ship that took him home. Patrick was not home for long before he felt God call him back to the very barbarians that had enslaved him. Through many years of toil including personal embarassment, persecution from captors and clergy, and more, Patrick boldly preached Christ crucified and obeyed the call to make disciples of all nations.
A Man of Faith Despite Circumstances
Aside from making disciples of the Irish pagans, nothing was more revealing of Saint Patrick’s genuine faith in Jesus than his pursuit of God while in captivity. In his Confessions, Patrick writes, “I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at the time.” Recalling his times shepherding in the hills of Ireland, Patrick explains, “More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I would say as many as] a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number.”
Patrick also faced relational hardships alongside physical ones. Patrick writes of his circumstances, “Many were trying to prevent [my] mission. They were talking among themselves behind my back, and saying: ‘Why is this fellow throwing himself into danger among enemies who know no God?’ Not from malice, but having no liking for it; likewise, as I myself can testify, they perceived my rusticity.” About this, Jonathan Rogers sums it up beautifully, “The Irish knew not God. For Patrick’s opponents that was reason enough to stay away from them. For Patrick, it was exactly why he embraced them.”