Living Our Lives Like St. Patrick
How can we follow St. Patrick’s example of faith, service, and obedience in our lives? Is it even possible? Can anyone short of a saint live such a life?
We are to be like Jesus, of course, but Jesus was God. In Patrick we have an ordinary man who was like us, with the same failings and desires, but whom God used for great purposes. Here is someone to inspire and energize our Christian walk.
Patrick was an incredible individual. He grew up on his father’s villa in Roman Britain as a spoiled child, disinterested in his priest’s teachings. Then Hibernian pirates raided his home, killed the older servants, and spirited him across the sea. Sold as a slave to a farmer in Foclut, this fifteen-year old boy worked alone in the far fields. He tended sheep, his only company a dog, the rain, cold, and prowling wolves. Miliucc, the farmstead’s chief, treated him harshly, giving him barely enough food to survive.
Then he remembered the Bible teaching from his church and he began to pray. Night and day he prayed. He embraced his hunger and cold and obeyed his master. The other slaves began calling him “holy boy” and made fun of him. Still, he prayed. And then God answered and sent him visions. The visions led him to escape, and he crossed two hundred miles of ancient, Celtic Ériu by night, arriving at the southern coast where he found a ship bound for the continent. Years later he made his way home.
But he was changed. His father wanted him to run the villa, but God sent him more visions. In his dreams the pagan Irish called out to him. He mourned over their eternal fate, for they were spiritually doomed. The visions begged him to return to the very land that had enslaved him. He wavered, but the visions were unrelenting. Then he knew. He had to go back.
And so he did. He spent another fifteen or so years training to be a priest, then a bishop. And in AD 432 he returned to the wild lands that stole Roman children from their beds at night. Where warriors put lye in their hair to make it white and stand on end, and ran into battle naked, painted blue and screaming. Yes, he went back and spent his life fighting the plots of the druids and the anger and suspicion of Celtic kings and princes. He preached the Gospel to a wild land, planted churches, and brought the northern half of ancient Ireland out of pagan darkness.
This is the example Patrick gives us. It’s the same the Apostle Paul taught us in the Book of Acts. It’s what Jesus taught us in the Great Commission: Go out. Make disciples. Baptize them. Then teach them to obey everything Jesus taught.
So how do we do what Jesus, Paul, and Patrick taught us to do? What is at stake if we don’t? Do we have to give up everything and become a missionary to foreign lands? Or can we do it from our homes and churches? What are the ways, small or large, that you have followed Patrick’s example? I’ll soon be sharing what I have done with my life, little though it is. But now I’d like to hear from you.