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The Real Story of St. Patrick, Part III

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher continues the real story of St. Patrick with Part III.

St. Patrick, An Amazing, Early Medieval Icon

As we approach St. Patrick’s day, we’ve been looking at what really happened in the life of St. Patrick, one of the main characters in my upcoming novel, The Bonfires of Beltane. (Click here for Part I or Part II or Part IV or use the navigation buttons on the left.)

CelticCurraghStarving in a Deserted Country

Last time we saw how God spoke to Patrick, leading him from slavery to a ship on the southern coast of Ireland. Yet the ship didn’t sail for Britain. Instead, it landed its cargo of Irish hounds somewhere on the continent, possibly in present-day Germany. But they’d missed their port and after they unloaded the hounds, captain and crew wandered for twenty-eight days in a barren land until they ran out of food. Then the captain turned to him. “We’re all starving,” he said. “If your God is so great and powerful, why don’t you pray to him to bring us some food so we don’t die?” Patrick did pray, and shortly afterward, a herd of pigs crossed their path. The sailors killed many and their feast lasted for two days.

Under Spiritual Attack

Then Patrick tells us, “That same night as I lay sleeping, I was attacked by Satan. He fell on me just like a huge rock so that I couldn’t even move my arms or legs.” He goes on to say he called upon the prophet Elijah for help.  Then as the sun rose, the weight was lifted. He continues, “I believe that it was Christ the Lord who rescued me that night and that it was his spirit which cried out for my sake.” They wandered for ten more days until, just as their food ran out again, they reached a settlement.

Finally, a Homecoming

It took several years until Patrick finally found his way across the sea to his home in Britain. What must his family have thought when, one autumn afternoon, a ghost walked through the doors of their villa? No one had ever returned after being captured by Irish raiders. When he’d left, he was fifteen. Now he was a young man of twenty-one. Certainly, his family was astonished by the changes in him. On the outside, he’d been hardened by years tending the sheep. But inside, he was a different person. He was home, but he’d been through a great ordeal, and it affected him all his life. His parents feasted him with dinner after dinner, inviting all their relatives. Life began to settle into a routine, and he tried to fit in.

Again, A Vision Comes

His father would have wanted Patrick to renew his education and learn the business of farming, so he could take over the villa. But he was unhappy, restless, unsettled. Then came the dream. A man appeared at the foot of his bed and gave his name as Victoricus. Then he dumped a pile of letters on the bed. Victoricus picked a scroll from the pile, broke the seal, and passed it to Patrick. It was addressed from “The Voice of the Irish.” Then voices began singing, and a heavenly chorus engulfed him. “Holy boy!” they sang, “Come back and walk among us!” When Patrick awoke, his heart broke for the lost people of Ireland, for their spiritual fate. The dream had moved him deeply.

Then a Second Dream

Later, a second dream came upon him. He heard someone saying a prayer, but it was unintelligible. The prayer was so beautiful, he was astonished. Long did he agonize over the meaning of the words. Did they came from within him or from outside of him? The answer mattered greatly. Then the dream came again, and this time, the words became clear: “The one who gave you your spirit, it is he who speaks in you.” At last, he knew. The words came from God, not from himself. And the young man who had only recently escaped from Hibernia knew in his heart, that despite the dangers, he had to go back.

We’ll conclude the story of Patrick next week with Part IV.

(Note that this history was gleaned from a variety of sources: Patrick’s own Confessions, Philip Freeman’s St. Patrick of Ireland, Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, and T.W. Moody and F.X. Martin’s The Course of Irish History.)