How Have I Followed St. Patrick?

How have I followed St. Patrick’s example? Poorly, I confess. Until I was 57 years of age, I lived as if God didn’t exist. It was only a little over seven years ago that I became a child of God. Before then I knew God existed, but I was untouched, unmoved by that knowledge. About Jesus, I was agnostic. I was not saved.

As a child I was baptized into the Christian faith, but through the years the strength of my belief was weak. It waxed and waned, finally fading to nothing. During my college years, I even investigated other religions. Then in the early 1980s, I became ill with a sickness no one could diagnose. Off work and in the midst of despair, I read about every religion I could find. I examined Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, and Islam. All were frauds. My wife pointed me to the book of Job and the Gospels. Then I prayed to God to cure me and He did.

But I soon returned to apathy, ignoring the God who’d answered my prayers. Many years later a new pastor came to my wife’s church and he invited me to hear his sermons. So I went. He preached about heaven and hell, eternal life and death. I read the books he suggested. I bought a new Bible and read it cover-to-cover. Then something happened.

I don’t remember when the realization hit me, but it did. My great epiphany came in two parts.
The first discovery was this: There is proof that the Bible is true. You see, truth is very important to me. I needed evidence. Was it real?

universe2When I found the proofs it shook my world. I’ll mention two among many. First, the critics said there was no such people as the Hittites, yet archaeologists discovered their entire capital city buried beneath the sands of Bogaz-Koy, Turkey. Second, there exist some 61 major fulfilled prophecies concerning the Messiah. What are the odds of that happening without divine, supernatural intervention? Much less than if you collected all the subatomic particles in the universe—all the protons, electrons, neutrons, etc…—into one pile and tried to find a single, marked particle.

Yes, the Bible was real and I’d better take it seriously. My second great discovery concerned the nature of God and it was this: God is a being of perfect goodness and love. But He is also perfectly holy and just. And because God is perfectly good, perfectly holy, He cannot tolerate sin. And so a great gulf existed between this perfectly good God and me—an unbridgeable gap. And no matter how hard I might try, I would never be free enough of sin. But I realized God loved me, that He loves each of us with a love so great, we cannot comprehend it. And He wants me—He wants each of us—to be with Him in His heaven, for His plan is to create a people for Himself whom He can love and who will love Him. A people among whom He will dwell for all eternity. So I had to make a choice. I could choose eternal life. Or eternal death. Thus, I chose to follow Jesus and put my trust in Him. And I know that because Jesus rose to live again, when my physical body dies, I too will live again. But my new life will be for all eternity with Christ.

That was over seven years ago. I leave it to another post to tell you what I’ve done since then.

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen 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.