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Saturday, February 21, 2015

St. Patrick, Missionary to Ireland





  1. Wayward Youth:  Around A.D. 390, when Britain was ruled by Rome, there was a young boy named Patrick who lived in Britain with his wealthy family in a Roman-style villa.  Although Patrick’s parents had reared him as a Christian, he didn’t take their teachings seriously.  He preferred to follow the sinful example of other youths. 
  2. Captured by Pirates:  Patrick continued in this way of life until one day he was captured by Irish pirates.  In his autobiography, entitled Confession, he writes:  “I was then almost sixteen years of age.  I was indeed ignorant of the true God, and I was taken in captivity to Ireland with thousands of people, and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, we ignored His Word, and we did not obey our teachers, who kept warning us about our salvation.  And there the Lord opened my heart to an awareness of my unbelief, so that, perhaps I might at last remember my sins, and that I might turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who turned His gaze upon my lowliness, and had mercy on my youth and ignorance and kept watch over me before I knew Him and He protected me and comforted me as a father comforts a son.  Therefore I cannot remain silent concerning such great benefits and the great grace which the Lord has been pleased to bestow on me in the land of my captivity, because this is what we can give in return after God corrects us and brings us to know Him:  To exalt and confess His wondrous deeds before every nation.” Click on the link below to read Patrick's highly readable Confession for yourself online. Even though he wrote hundreds of years ago, what he says is clear, brief, vivid, and applicable to today.
  3. Returning to the Land of His Captivity:  One night while Patrick was still in captivity, God showed him a way to escape from Ireland, and after six years of slavery working mainly as a shepherd, he found his way back to Britain and his family.  From that time on, Patrick dedicated his life to God, forsaking his father’s plan for him to inherit and manage the family estate.  Instead, he became an expert student of Scripture.  While Patrick was praying one day, he heard voices calling out, saying, “Come back to us, Holy Youth.  We need you!”  He could see God’s plan in all that had happened in his life, and was commissioned to return to pagan Ireland to preach the Gospel of Christ.
  4. Ireland as the Lighthouse of Europe:  In the early days of his ministry, Patrick suffered great persecution, but he knew the language and customs of the Irish people, and God gave Patrick extraordinary wisdom and protection as he went from chieftain to chieftain, teaching them the essentials of the Christian faith.  Like Jesus, he was remarkably kind and would use whatever common things were at hand to illustrate profound spiritual truth, like using a three-leaf clover to show how something can be three yet one, like our Triune God, who is the one and only true God, existing as three distinct Persons:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (the mystery of the Holy Trinitynot 1+1+1 but 1x1x1).  If an Irish chieftain agreed to be baptized, Patrick usually found it easy to convince the rest of the tribe.  Then Patrick would ask for ground on which to build a church.  When the ground was granted, he would mark off the church foundations with his staff.  Then, leaving some of his assistants behind to build the church and further instruct the people, Patrick would move on to a new area.  He founded over 300 churches and baptized over 120,000 persons.  Students were sent to him from all over Europe, which proved an important means of preserving Christian heritage when the Dark Ages soon descended after the fall of Rome.  People honor Patrick on March 17 because he died on that date in the year 461.



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