Who is Saint Patrick and Why Do We Celebrate Him?

Some individuals in history reveal to us the amazing sustaining grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! Their lives demonstrate the outworking of that grace in the fulfilling of the Great Commission. Today St. Patrick is remembered more for the myths that were spread about him two centuries later than the reality of his life surrendered to the fulfilling of the Great Commission in Ireland!

Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20.

St. Patrick was the son of a Roman official of British lineage. At sixteen, he was captured by raiders and sold to an Irish chieftain, Milchu. He spent six years in slavery as a swineherd. He had been raised as a Christian. Although his father was a deacon, Patrick’s was not religious until, as a swineherd slave, he began to pray for his freedom. “He said that, “The Lord opened to me the sense of my unbelief,” during his captivity. He escaped following a dream in which a voice told him a ship would be waiting to take him to his own country. After a journey of 200 miles he found the ship, and was eventually able to return to his family.

One night, in a dream, he heard voices calling him back to Ireland. Consequently, 432 is the traditional date for Patrick’s voyage to Ireland, which ended on the shores of Strangford Lough. He quickly made a convert of a local chief named Dichu, who gave him a barn for his first church.

Before long Patrick made his way to the Hill of Tara, seat of the high king of Ireland. Arriving on the eve of Easter, he lit a paschal fire on the nearby Hill of Slane. At this time of year, it was pagan practice to put out all fires before a new one was lit at Tara. When the druids at Tara saw the light from Slane, they warned King Laoghaire that he must extinguish it or it would burn forever. Patrick was summoned to Tara, and on the way he and his followers chanted the hymn known as “The Lorica” or “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate”.

Although Laoghaire remained a pagan, he was so impressed by the saint that he gave him permission to make converts throughout his realm. Patrick travelled widely in Ireland, making converts and establishing new churches, though he eventually made his headquarters at Armagh.

There are many legends about Patrick, not least that he banished snakes from Ireland and that he adopted the shamrock as a symbol of the Holy Trinity.

Patrick’s writings belong to the latter part of his life and confirm that he was less learned as a writer than he was persuasive as a speaker. Nonetheless, the Confession, a response to criticisms of his mission in Ireland, is a moving revelation of his vocation and of the divine guidance he received in dreams. Irish annals give the date of Patrick’s death as 493, but an earlier date of 461 seems more likely. Tradition says he died at Saul and was buried at nearby Downpatrick.

Excerpts from “The Confession”, an autobiography of Saint Patrick written near the end of his life.

“I, Patrick, a sinner, the rudest and the least of all the faithful, and an object of the greatest contempt to many, am the son of Calpornius, a deacon, the son of the late Potitus, a presbyter, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ; he had a country seat [or farm] nearby, and there I was taken captive.I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God, and I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people – and deservedly so, because we had turned away from God, and had not kept His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers.”

“And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and then turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my low estate, and took pity on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son.”

“Hence I cannot be silent – and indeed, I ought not to be – about the many blessings and the large measure of grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this only can we give in return to God after having been chastened by Him: to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation under the heaven.”

“For He Himself has said through the Prophet: Call upon me in the day of thy trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. And again He says: It is honorable to reveal and confess the works of God…”

“…Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated, I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity, benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.”

“Wherefore, then, be astonished, ye great and little that fear God, and you men of letters on your estates, listen and pore over this. Who was it that roused up me, the fool that I am, from the midst of those who in the eyes of men are wise, and expert in law, and powerful in word and in everything? And He inspired me, me, the outcast of this world, before others, to be the man (if only I could!) who, with fear and reverence and without blame, should faithfully serve the people to whom the love of Christ conveyed and gave me for the duration of my life, if I should be worthy; yes indeed, to serve them humbly and sincerely.”

“In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord, so many thousands of people.”

An ancient Irish Prayer is also attributed to Patrick. Known as “The breastplate prayer”, it is a cry to God for protection during the fight against paganism:

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through the belief in the threeness,

Through confession of the oneness

Of the Creator of Creation.

 

I arise today

Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,

Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,

Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,

Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

 

I arise today

Through the strength of the love Cherubim,

In obedience of angels,

In the service of archangels,

In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,

In prayers of patriarchs,

In predictions of prophets,

In preaching of apostles,

In faith of confessors,

In innocence of holy virgins,

In deeds of righteous men.

 

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven:

Light of sun,

Radiance of moon,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of wind,

Depth of sea,

Stability of earth,

Firmness of rock.

 

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me:

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me

From snares of devils,

From temptations of vices,

From everyone who shall wish me ill,

Afar and a near,

Alone and in multitude.

 

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,

Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,

Against incantations of false prophets,

Against black laws of pagandom

Against false laws of heretics,

Against craft of idolatry,

Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,

Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

 

Christ to shield me today

Against poison, against burning,

Against drowning, against wounding,

So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

 

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in the threeness,

Through confession of the oneness,

Of the Creator of Creation.

It is clear that Patrick had a deep relationship with God, his loving and faithful Father. He Knew Him through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ the Son, whom he made his Lord and Savior. Patrick understood that without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, there can be no forgiveness for sins when we die, and no expectation of the reality of an eternal Heaven to abide in the presence of the Lord. Do you know him? Do you have a deep relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ?

 

 

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About Pastor Wayne

I am a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate who is glad to know that we can have hope in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ because His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). I am a conservative, Bible believing Christian Pastor. I am married to a very godly young woman who has blessed me with a precious daughter. I hope this blog will be thought provoking and encouraging to all of you! God Bless!
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