See my earlier posts for more on St. Patrick’s life.
IV. Myths and History
There are quite a few legends about St. Patrick, many of which are questionable. For example, he didn’t drive the snakes out of Ireland, because there weren’t any snakes there to begin with. He was not Irish, but is believed to have lived in what is now southern Scotland, which was part of the Roman colony of Britain (or Britannia) at that time. His father, Calpurnius, was a local official and sat on the town council. He was also a deacon in the church and Patrick’s grandfather was a priest. He was given the Christian name of Patrick (or Patricius) later in life – it was not his birth name.
In an earlier post we saw he was not the first Christian missionary to Ireland, but he was by far the most effective. It is believed he died on March 17, so that’s why he is commemorated on that day. The first known St. Patrick’s Day parade occurred in 1737 in Boston. St. Patrick is not an “official” saint of the Roman Catholic Church – he was never canonized by the Church. It is believed that Patrick was in his mid-40s when he was sent to Ireland and he was 77 years old when he died.
Ireland eventually became an important Christian center, with many churches and abbeys, many of which were destroyed later by the Vikings. The Bible and other writings were copied in those abbeys and preserved from destruction by the barbarian hoards that overran mainland Europe. When Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages, Ireland’s monks were hard at work in scholarship and copying priceless manuscripts. Eventually copies of these manuscripts were returned to Europe, and so were preserved there as the Irish abbeys were being destroyed by the Vikings. God’s Word will live on despite what man will try to do to obliterate it.
2. Personal Note
When you visit Ireland you see abbey and church ruins all over the country, testimony to how devoted to Christ that country became. On a personal note, reading about Patrick and all the places he visited made me homesick for Ireland. The landscape is beautiful and the people are friendly – a good place to visit. You should know that their language is not Gaelic or Celtic, but they prefer to call it Irish. They don’t speak with a brogue, but prefer to be said that they speak with an accent. Some of Ireland’s most defining historical events are:
-Their conversion to Christianity by Patrick;
-the Battle of the Boyne in 1688, which consolidated Protestant control;
-the famine of the 1840s, in which 2 million either died or emigrated;
-the Easter Uprising of 1916 against British rule; and
-the division of the island in 1920 into Northern Ireland and the Republic.
1. Patrick’s Faith
In conclusion, Patrick was a humble, pious, and gentle man, whose love and total devotion to God should be a shining example to each of us. He was obedient to God’s call and trusted God to protect him. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and God did protect him.
2. Our Ministry
In Luke 10:1-12 Jesus sent out the 70, telling them the fields are ripe for harvest. After his ascension into heaven, Jesus also sent out the Apostles, Paul, Patrick, innumerable others, and he is sending us out today. When God calls us, he gives us the power, the strength, the spiritual tools and the instructions to fulfill his purposes through us. God may not be sending us to another country, but he is sending us to do various ministries.
Home and family are important ministries. There is plenty we can do in the local church and in our own communities. We can minister to those in the workplace – a fertile field. Today the fields are still ripe – so let’s go out and harvest.