“The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelieving heart, so that I should recall my sins.” St. Patrick
Because this week is celebrated in memory of St. Patrick, this will be the first of three articles of the Saint’s life. Consider this a, “mystic of the month BONUS” for those of you that follow the site. In this post I will cover Ireland before Saint Patrick and Patrick before his Sainthood. To start I would like to clear up some things related to the day of Saint Patrick that have nothing to do with the man of God or his amazing ministry.
If you think you know all about St. Patrick, let’s get one thing straight…Saint Patrick was not Irish! I know it sounds crazy, so if you thought he was, you might get more out of this article than you expected!
Have you ever thought about why there are no other Saint “days” observed (not counting St. Valentine), what makes Saint Patrick so special as to have his own feast and celebration day? If you can answer that, I would then like to ask why this day is observed in places across the world? Now, here in a America I’ve “celebrated” St. Patrick’s day just like most Americans…using it as another excuse to get wasted by slamming down “Irish Car Bombs”. Yes, in the name of a saint that I thought I knew all about! I thought he was all about: The color green, Guinness n Baileys’ Irish Cream, shamrocks, leprechauns, and casting out snakes…I was wrong!
Let us take a look at Ireland before St. Patrick arrived. The land was filled with a variety of Celtic “clans” that were very prideful, which caused a 1,000 year war between the clans and kingdoms of that territory. Each clan was fierce on its own, but they were never able to unify in order to advance against Rome. One way to look at it came from a zoologist:
“A tiger will defeat a lion in battle; but five lions will defeat five tigers because the lions fight together and the tigers do not, so the five lions take on one tiger at a time.”1
The Celtic clans were “tigers” fighting the Roman “lions” so to speak. The Roman army eventually pushed the Celtic clans west, close to their current locations. The clans grew and prospered individually. The religion at the time was an animistic polytheism, which worshiped sun and moon as well as natural objects. The leaders were known as druids; they had white robes, magic wands, and sacrificed their firstborns to the idol, Crom Crauch. Note that each clan was distinct from one another and they did not do everything the same. To the outside “world”, these Celtic people looked like “barbarians”. This is a point as to why Christianity did not impact Ireland until St. Patrick landed there. The Roman Church in that day thought a people had to be “civilized” enough before they could be “Christianized”. It is believed that Christians came to evangelize in Ireland before St. Patrick, such as Palladius who was ordained by Pope Celestine to do so; as well as others that may have been taken captive there. Of course no one was able to spread the Gospel through Ireland like St. Patrick did.
Now, let us glance at Patrick before he was a Saint in Ireland. Patrick was born in the village of Bannavem Taberniae (exact location unknown), to a Christian family. It is said that his father was a deacon, and his grandfather a priest. With this being said, there is not much known about Patrick’s early family life, but I would guess that he grew up knowing a little bit about the Bible. When Patrick was sixteen years of age, he was captured by Celtic pirates and taken away to Ireland. He was then sold to a tribal chief named Miliucc, who put him to work tending his flocks. Remarkably, it was in this time that Patrick drew near to God. He said in his own writings,
“Now, after I came to Ireland, tending flocks was my daily occupation, and constantly I used to pray in the day time. Love of God and the fear of Him increased more and more, and faith grew, and the spirit was moved, so that in one day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and at night nearly as many, so that I used to stay even in the woods and on the mountain to this end. And before daybreak I used to be roused to prayer, in snow, in frost, in rain; and I felt no hurt, nor was there any sluggishness in me.”2
Sounds like day and night prayer to me! Then one night after his six years of captivity, he heard the voice of God. “Thou fastest to good purpose, thou who art soon to go to thy fatherland.” Again he heard, “Lo, thy ship is ready.” So at daybreak he took off and eventually found the ship! At first he talked to the Captain, by offering his service, but in reply he got, “On no account seek to go with us.” Patrick, disappointed started to walk away when he heard them call him back. The sailors received him saying, “Come, for we will receive thee in good faith; make friends with us in any way thou desirest.” Sounds like some favor to me! So the ship took off and Patrick made his way back to his homeland.
Join me next time as I will be continuing the journey of St. Patrick from his time back “home”, to his exciting missionary trip back to his slave land that he ended up making his lifelong mission field and resting place. I’ll tell you one thing, his time in slavery was not in vain!
Until next time,
Source: Sixteen Centuries With Ireland’s Patron Saint Patrick- Alice-Boyd Proudfoot