How well do you know the saint of your party? Well, here's a little introduction to the man and his legacy...
Patrick was probably born in the North of England. He might even have hailed from Scotland. Whatever the case, he was born into a Christian home. His father was a deacon (a leader) in the local church. When Patrick was 16 years old, life took a sudden turn for the worse. A band of marauding pirates captured him and carried this young lad off into bondage. For 6 years he worked as a slave, shepherding sheep on the hills of Hibernia (Ireland).
During this time, Patrick had plenty of time to think. Although his parents had taught him about the Christian Faith, he says, “I was ignorant of the true God.” But in the solitude of those green hills, Patrick began to seek the God of His Father. And he found Him. Then one night in a dream, Patrick heard the call of God telling him to escape. He woke up and slipped away in the darkness. He reached the coast where he managed to persuade some sailors to give him passage back home.
At this point, the details of Patrick’s life become a little sketchy. What we do know is that sometime around 440 AD, Patrick had another dream. He saw a vision of a man by the name of Victoricius, standing holding a pile of letters, written by the people of Ireland, all pleading for Patrick to come across and teach them about God in truth. In his mind there was no doubt, God was calling him as a missionary to Ireland. The Church agreed and ordained Patrick as the Bishop of Armagh (Pron. Armah).
These were dangerous times to be a foreigner in Ireland. Warmongering Chieftains ruled the land. With the godless lies of paganism, Druids trapped the people in spiritual darkness. Patrick knew the danger he faced. In his famous hymn, he confessed,
"I bind to myself to-day,—The Power of God to guide me,The Might of God to uphold me...The
Shield of God to shelter me, The Host of God to defend me,
Against the snares of demons, Against the temptations of vices, Against the lusts of nature,Against every man who meditates injury to me. Whether far or near, With few or with many. I have set around me all these powers, Against every hostile savage power, Directed against my body and my soul, Against the deceits of idolatry, Against all knowledge which blinds the soul of man.
Christ protect me to-day Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wound, That I may receive abundant reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left.
(St. Patrick’s Breastplate)
Undeterred by these challenges, Patrick returned once again to Ireland as a slave. Before he had been a slave of men, now he was a slave of Christ. For over 50 years he wandered the verdant hills and valleys of Hibernia telling sinners about the love of God in Christ. His efforts bore tremendous fruit. And ultimately before his death, he testified “I am,” he says, “greatly a debtor to God, who has bestowed his grace so largely upon me, that multitudes were born again to God through me. The Irish, who never had the knowledge of God and worshipped only idols and unclean things, have lately become the people of the Lord, and are called sons of God.”