DHD: Six reflections on St. Patrick’s life
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In honor of this day, I want to pay tribute to its namesake – the man known as St. Patrick the priest, missionary and legendary savior from the snakes in Ireland.
If you’re not familiar with this great Christian leader, may this week’s DHD allow you to be more informed, even inspired to share your faith with others.
- Early years
Not much is known about St. Patrick before he was 16. What is known is that his birth name was not Patrick. He claims that moniker much later in life when he becomes a priest. He also was not born in Ireland. Supposedly he was born in Scotland in the late 300s and lived in England.
He did have a Christian upbringing. His father was a deacon, and his grandfather was a priest, but history reports St. Patrick did not live a saintly life as a boy. There was no sign of spiritual growth even as a 16-year-old, but the guidance apparently from his parents and/or other Christian mentors must have planted seeds in his heart because with the ordeal he experiences and the bad conditions to follow, Patrick found solace from his Christian training.
At 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates who took him to Ireland and sold him into slavery, working as a shepherd and farm hand. For six years he lived under a master who participated in the Celtic pagan culture that Ireland was known to have at this time.
Somehow, these conditions caused Patrick to grow in his Christian faith. It was said, on his own, he developed a strong prayer life, supposedly praying approximately 100 times a day.
Patrick eventually ran away to the shore, about 200 miles from where he was enslaved. He got on a ship that took him back to England.
- His mission to Ireland
Patrick studied to become a priest after he returned to England. Through the Lord’s leading, he also developed a passionate burden for Ireland and the people who were lost and living pagan lives. So he returned to Ireland, and God used him to convert many Irish people to Christianity. He planted churches throughout the country and baptized thousands.
Patrick also faced life-threatening challenges, even from the king. But eventually, God used Patrick to lead Ireland’s ruler to Christ.
- Driving out the snakes
One myth about Patrick is that he drove the snakes away from Ireland. This may be more symbolic than actual, as Ireland was never known to have a large snake infestation. It could be the impact Patrick had for Christianity, as he was used by God to change and convert many countrymen away from the pagan lifestyle, and symbolically, his influence reflected a driving away the snakes from the land.
- Using the shamrock to teach the Trinity
Another legend about Patrick was that he used a three-leaf clover or a shamrock to teach the Irish about the Trinity. There is no legitimate support that he did this, but it is a common understanding how some have used the clover for such a teaching for the Gospel. Because of this, the Shamrock has been known to be a popular Irish symbol.
- His life of humility
One final aspect about the life of St. Patrick was his meek and humble life. Being a slave had a major impact on him, even how he viewed his own life. It was said he never fully overcame this heavy time in his life. Though he had passion for people, he thought of himself as a lowly, uneducated slave boy.
Here is the opening of his autobiography:
“My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae. His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May this reflection of St. Patrick encourage all of us to live humbly and with passion to share the Gospel.