What Shall we Say About…

St. Patrick

By Tosha Williams

 

For St. Patrick’s Day, green food, shamrocks and leprechauns usually come to mind first. People have parties, towns have parades, and school children wear green. But how would the real St. Patrick like to be celebrated? His real story suggests he would be most honored by Christians sharing their faith. 

Patrick’s story begins somewhere in Great Britain about 400 years after Christ. His parents were Roman citizens sent to govern a colony there. They were probably somewhat wealthy, and Patrick’s father was a deacon in their church. Patrick was well educated and his childhood was relatively normal until he was about 16, when pirates attacked their estate. Patrick was captured then sold in Ireland to the pagan Irish chieftain Miliuc. For 6 years, far from home and family, Patrick was Miliuc’s slave, tending his livestock, enduring the elements and often living in hunger.

Something amazing happened during his enslavement, though. As hard as slavery was, Patrick’s heart did not grow hard toward God. In fact, he grew closer to the Lord he had learned of in his childhood. Though raised in a Christian home, Patrick had never given his life to Christ. Yet, there in his captivity, Patrick began to pray and talk to God. Once he gave his life to Jesus, he became so devoted to Him that fellow slaves nicknamed him “Holy Boy.”

After six years, God gave that “Holy Boy” a vision to escape his captors and return home. Patrick dared to believe God for the impossible. He walked about 200 miles without being recaptured, convinced a ship’s master to take him aboard and sailed many miles back to his homeland. Patrick later wrote in his autobiography Confessio, “I turned on my heel and ran away, leaving behind the man to whom I had been bound for six years. Yet I came away from him in the power of God, for it was he who was guiding my every step for the best.” Indeed, God guided Patrick’s way all the way back to his country and family. 

Returning home as a Christ-follower, Patrick grew in his newfound faith. He studied God’s Word and committed to vocational ministry. Then God gave Patrick another vision, this time beckoning him to return to the land from which he had recently escaped – yet this time to share the Gospel. 

Despite his fears of re-enslavement and his family’s protests, Patrick obeyed God’s call to take Scripture back to Ireland. In fact, he spent the rest of his life there, going from county to county telling people about Jesus. All over Ireland, Patrick shared the Good News of God’s salvation. He was in constant danger for this, many times narrowly escaping death. Still, he never quit; he never stopped.

Along the way, Patrick taught the Irish commoners how to read using the Bible. In those days of Ireland, only the wealthiest, and usually only men, were allowed the privilege of learning how to read. Such was considered a luxury not worth wasting on commoners, the poor or females. However, Patrick taught people everywhere how to read God’s Word. So profound was his impact that the Irish culture fell in love with the Bible during his day. They treasured God’s Word so much that they made multiple, beautiful copies of it. The Trinity College museum in Dublin houses their gorgeously illustrated copies of the Bible, known as the Book of Kells. 

There’s so much more to Patrick’s story:  he advocated for women and children; he influenced the halt the Irish slave trade; he was accredited for doing some miracles. His story is fascinating and inspiring, so much more than green shamrocks and Irish dancing. 

Patrick’s life and legacy is that of a man who loved God and His Word so much that he spent his lifetime sharing both. Perhaps for the day named in his honor, the most fitting tribute to St. Patrick would be to follow his example, in Jesus’ Name.

© 2020 Tosha L Williams, Family Disciple Me

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