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St. Patrick’s Story — Part I

St. Patrick’s Story — Part I

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher takes us back to ancient, Celtic Ireland to tell the story of St. Patrick, Part I.

As I researched my historical novel, The Bonfires of Beltane, I realized what a tale the life of St. Patrick presents and how few people know it. So let us now delve into the real story of St. Patrick.

Born to Wealth and Privilege

Patrick was born to wealthy parents in Roman Britain at the end of the fourth century AD. His father, Calpornius, was a Roman patrician with a large farmstead somewhere on the western coast. At a time when many Romans worshiped gods like Mars, Minerva, and Jupiter, Calpornius held a deaconship in the local Christian church. Baptized as an infant, Patrick rebelled against his parents’ faith. By his own admission, he was a spoiled child of privilege and in his youth, an atheist. He was schooled in the classics like Virgil, Homer, and Aristotle, but he struggled with Latin and had barely begun public speaking.

Then Came the Raiders

On one tragic night, this idyllic life ended. Slave traders came from across the sea, from Hibernia—what the Roman’s called Ireland. His parents and sister were visiting relatives in the north, leaving him alone at the villa with the slaves and hired freemen. The raiders appeared suddenly at night. They captured the younger servants and slaves. They killed the older men and women, those too feeble to bring a good price on Hibernia. They stole young Patrick, a youth of but fifteen, put an iron chain around his neck, and carried him across the sea. For centuries, the Romans had feared Hibernia as a country of wild men, barbarians, and “cannibals”. We can only imagine what went through the mind of this terrified, traumatized youth.


Out on the Moors, Cold, Starving, and Alone

In Hibernia, his captors sold him into slavery, and he ended up somewhere on the western coast, probably near a village called Foclut. This child of privilege and wealth suddenly found himself on the rainy moors, cold, starving, and alone, with the lowly job of tending sheep. He moved flocks between fields, fought off wolves. Sometimes he slept with the other slaves back in the farmstead, behind the safety of an earthen ditch and wooden stakes.

“Holy Boy” and God’s Voice

Six years passed, and something in him changed. He used to make fun of the priests, but now he remembered the biblical stories of his youth. He began to pray. He rose before sunrise, said a hundred prayers, and before going to bed, said another hundred. The other slaves called him, “holy boy”. And he began to fast. Gradually, his faith grew. And he served his master obediently.

One night, a voice called to him in a dream, “You have fasted well. Soon you will be going home.” But how could that be? Foclut was as far from the eastern and southern ports as one could get. And escaped slaves were quickly captured. So he ignored the voice. But the next night, the voice came again, “Behold, your ship is ready.” It gave him directions to a ship on the southern coast. He knew it was the voice of God.

The Escape

He left his flock and set out on foot. Avoiding farmsteads, he traveled only at night, crossing the treacherous fens on log roads and swimming wide rivers. Without fire, his food dwindling, and fearing capture, he traversed one hundred eighty miles of open country, until he arrived at a port. In the village below, a ship floated at anchor. He screwed up his courage, passed by the roundhouses, and walked up the gangplank. Irish hounds filled the deck. But after one glance, the captain sent him away. Devastated, Patrick returned to the village.

Keywords: St. Patrick, ancient, Celtic Ireland, Hibernia, Calpornius, Foclut

Next week, we’ll conclude St. Patrick’s story with Part II.

(Note: This was a condensed version of a four-part series I posted a year ago. Parts one and two were recently published in the Spring 2017 Issue of Celtic Canada Magazine.)

2 replies
  1. Donna Clemmons
    Donna Clemmons says:

    My mothers mother came from County Cork Ireland her mother died when my mother was 3 we never got to meet her . I only heard stories of St.Patrick when he was an adult and was known for raising the dead . God had a plan for Patrick I just wonder if Patrick had not rebelled against God would his path to God been less painful as for all of us . In the end God took what satan meant for harm and raised up a man that changed the world !!! Amen

    • Mark E. Fisher
      Mark E. Fisher says:

      Aye, indeed. Patrick’s story is one of a rebellious teenager, an atheist even, whom God used in a powerful way. In his early years, he was rebellious, going his own way, disregarding his parents. So in that he was much like us. He was also much like some of the characters in Genesis. More than once Abraham passed his wife off as his sister. Isaac and Jacob were no better. Yet God used them, sinful men that they were, for his grand plan. And yes, when we resist God’s calling, he might put us through trials until we relent. Patrick reminds me of Jonah, who resisted going to Ninevah. Jonah was sure the Assyrians should go to hell. They were the enemies of the Israelites. He didn’t want to save them. He even tried to escape in the opposite direction by boat, and ended up in the belly of a whale. In the end, he relented and did God’s bidding, preaching in Ninevah. Thanks for your comment.

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