As luck would have it, yesterday was Wednesday and also St. Patrick’s Day. No, I didn’t wear green. Sorry to disappoint. As a matter of fact, I never understood why so many people in the United States observed an Irish holiday which just seemed to commemorate a legendary leprechaun.
Now granted, I’ve known for some time that Saint Patrick was indeed a real person but the worldwide holiday (which supposedly brings good luck to those who wear green on that day) evidently does not honor him for who he really was. With that being said, I’m going to spend a little time today giving a short history lesson. Note, the following information I’ll be providing comes from a book I’ve been reading titled, Faith of Our Fathers: Scenes from Church History. The book is a compilation of short works on various historical topics, written by various authors, regarding the Christian church and I’ll specifically be referencing a chapter about Saint Patrick, written by Christa G. Habbeger.
There are limited resources about the life of Saint Patrick, but I think we can learn a good deal about the “Apostle of Ireland,” through his two writings, Confession and Letter to Coroticus. It is from Confession where we learn that Patrick was born in a town called Banavem of Tabernia, most likely in England which was at the time being gradually released from Roman rule. When Patrick was 16, he recorded an instance when he was taken captive by Irish raiders and enslaved for six years as a tender of sheep. During his enslavement, Patrick records his testimony of conversion to Christianity, becoming a man of fervent prayer. He wrote that God later called him to take the gospel back to his former captors in Ireland, a country that was almost wholly unevangelized in the middle of the fifth century (Habbeger 77).
While there are little to no details about Patrick’s ministry and how long it lasted, we can be encouraged by his recordings about the trials he went through during that time. Like many missionaries, he faced opposition, both from family and friends, and from those he ministered to. “Once, he recorded, ‘I give thanks unto him, who has comforted me on all occasions, so that nothing has hindered me from the accomplishment of that which I had laid down to do, and also of my work, which I had learned from Christ. But rather on account of it, I have felt myself strengthened not a little, and my faith has been proved before God and man.’”(Habbeger 78-9) He even wrote of a situation where “‘minor kings….even desired to kill me, but the time had not come; everything which they found with us they seized at once, and bound myself with fetter; but on the fourteenth day the Lord delivered me out of their power….’” (Habbeger 80)
Patrick also endured homesickness and wrote about his longing to visit loved ones in his homeland but refused to succumb to this desire for the sake of the fruits of his labor, the thousands of souls he baptized during his ministry. In fact, “he had long ago decided that ‘if I went [to Ireland], I should wish to be with them the residue of my life.’” (Habbeger 79) And, like many of Jesus’s disciples, he even lacked education but “Confession and Letter reveal that the source of his learning was the Word of God.” (Habbeger 78)
What inspires me personally about Saint Patrick’s life and ministry was his strong devotion to the work God called him to do, so much so that he was a prime example of literally leaving behind loved ones, as referred to in the scripture, Matthew 10:37-38. His love for the Lord and for spreading the gospel far surmounted the love he had for his biological family, something that I fall so short of every day.
My hope and prayer is that we the staff in CoMission would strive to be more like Patrick and other missionaries across the globe today, who love Christ so much more than our friends and family that we would be willing to leave them behind to take the gospel to places where it hasn’t been heard.
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39