Before all the festivities focused on shamrocks and leprechauns and good luck wishes, there was truly something to celebrate: a man willing to stand in the gap for Jesus Christ. Reporter David Kithcart reveals the inspiring true story behind this courageous and fervent Irishman we all know as Saint Patrick.
It was an act of defiance that changed the course of a nation. Patrick lit a fire in pagan 5th century Ireland, ushering Christianity into the country. Who was this man who became the patron saint of Ireland?
Ireland was a beautiful island shrouded in terrible darkness. Warlords and druids ruled the land. But across the sea in Britain, a teen-ager was poised to bring this nation to God.
“Patrick was born into a Christian family,” says Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland. “His father was a deacon; his grandfather a priest. But Patrick says that from a n early age, he didn’t have any serious interest in religion and that he was pratically an atheist when he was a teenager.”
Around 400 A.D., Patrick was abducted from his village and thrown onto a slave ship headed for Ireland.
“He saw that as God chastising him, first of all,” says Rev. Sean Brady. “That was the first view. He says we deserved what we got. We’re carried at 16 years of age over to this foreign land.”
Patrick was sold to a chieftain named Milchu. He spent six years tending his master’s flocks on the slopes of the Slemish Mountain. Patrick recounts his time as a slave in his memoir entitled The Confession.
“He says, ‘I prayed a hundred times in the day and almost as many at night,’ ” says Rev. Brady, the Roman Catholic Archbiship of Armagh and Primate of All of Ireland. “Through that experience of prayer and trial, he came to know another God — God the Father, who was his protector. He came to know Jesus Christ in those sufferings, and he came to be united with Christ and he came to identify with Christ, and then of course, also the Holy Spirit.”
One night during a time of prayer and fasting, Patrick wrote: “I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: ‘It is well that you fast. Soon you will go to your own country.’ And again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me: ‘See, your ship is ready.’ ”
Patrick escaped and traveled 200 miles cross country to the west coast. He found a ship ready to sail, but was refused passage. After a desperate prayer, he was allowed aboard.
Patrick eventually returned to his home and family. His experience of God’s grace and provision solidified his faith. He began to study for the ministry.
Freeman says, “One night, he had a dream. Thee was a man who came from Ireland with a whole bunch of letters. And he opened up one of the letters and it said ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ And then he heard a voice coming out of this letter that said, ‘Holy boy, please return to us. We need you.'”
Patrick struggled in his soul. Could he return to Ireland and minister to the same people who had enslaved him? Once again, he turned to God in prayer. He received the answer in a dream.
“He talks about how he, in this dream, is trying to pray and yet he can’t,” says Freeman. “So he hears a voice coming from inside of him which he realizes is the voice of God praying for him.”
Patrick knew he had to go and convince his church that he was called to be a missionary to Ireland. He set sail in a small ship.
Patrick landed at the mouth of the Slaney River. When Patrick set foot on this shore, a new era dawned on this island.
“The Ireland of his day really wasn’t much different from the Ireland of a few years ago here where we are sitting here at this moment,” notes Most Reverend Dr. Robert Eames, Church of England Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland. “It was an Ireland of tribalism, an Ireland of war, an Ireland of suspicion, an Ireland of violence and death. Here he came as a virtual stranger to this country of warring factions.”
“They worshipped multiple gods of the sky and the earth and the water,” says Freeman. “And so that was his first challenge: to convince the Irish that there was only one God and that his God really did love them.”
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SOURCE: CBN News