Matthew 28:19 (ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St Patrick was the bishop to Ireland and he lived in a time just before Christianity became the mainstream religion in the Roman Empire, sometime around AD386 – AD460.
His faith journey wasn’t an easy one. Like Daniel and Joseph of the Bible, he was captured by pirates and sold into slavery when he was only teenager (16 years old). Life was difficult for slaves. Not only was life difficult, but he was dragged from his home and sent into slavery in another country without his family. Tradition says that as a slave in Ireland he was forced to be a shepherd, herding sheep and pigs. His father had been a church deacon, and his grandfather a clergyman, but by his account, he only turned to religion and prayed out to God when he was in captivity. Conditions were harsh and his only comfort was what he received through praying constantly. After six years as a slave he escaped by boat to Britain. He traveled the 200 miles to the ocean and according to some stories either stowed away or booked passage. The boat landed not far from where his parents lived, and one would expect a joyful reunion and for him to remain with his parents. Instead of staying though, he traveled to France to study and become a priest. Because of his captivity, he never received any formal education and lacked the eloquence the other students had.
While studying for ministry, he received a vision from God to return to Ireland as a missionary. He only took the name Patrick when he later became a Bishop. It was a great act of forgiveness that he returned to the people who enslaved him in order to share with them the love of Christ.
Unlike most Bible teachers and preachers of the time, Patrick didn’t speak very well nor deliver fine sermons. It wasn’t his rhetoric that won the people over. He had the rare ability to use common, everyday life experiences to explain difficult theological concepts – much like Jesus did and the apostle Paul after Him. That’s pretty much why St. Patrick’s Day is represented by a shamrock. According to legend, Patrick would take up a three-leaf clover and ask, “Does it have one leaf or three?” Those listening would respond, “both.” Patrick then explained, “And so it is with the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit are one God. Three persons in one.” However, that alone wasn’t enough to bring his people to faith in God either.
Ironically, what he lacked in school, he more than made up for by what he learned through his upbringing of trials and adversity. And that was a desperate dependence on God through prayer. This was more than any theological school could teach him and it was instrumental in his success as a minister of God. It was that and the demonstration of his faith through his actions and prayer life that convinced so many to believe in God.
St. Patrick wasn’t just a minister for God inside the 4 walls of the church. He was outspoken about the practice of slavery in his country as well. His repeated pleas to the Christian leadership in Britain were ignored but he persisted and like the widow in Jesus’ parable, was rewarded – with the decision to end the slave trade in Ireland.
Dear Lord, we thank you for men Like St. Patrick who wasn’t afraid to share Your love to those around him. Help us to be bold like him. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.