Next Sunday we’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Who is Saint Patrick and why do we celebrate this day? Oddly enough it has nothing to do with little green men or four leaf clovers…I had heard of Saint Patrick before, but never really knew much about him (other than he was a missionary in Ireland) until I was reading the Trial and Triumph story to my sons. We have been studying this as one of our many books in our homeschool and the sad thing is most of these stories I am hearing for the first time.
Patrick was abducted by pirates as a young boy and taken to Ireland as a slave. At first he was bitter and despised his captives, but later began to pray and discovered God. He was taught the ways of Christianity as a young boy, but like many youth, though he paid little attention at the time. However, the teachings of his parents and church leaders eventually came to his mind at this greatest time of desperation.
He said “…I found myself pasturing flocks daily, and I prayed a number of times each day. More and more the love and fear of God came to me, and faith grew and my spirit was exercised, until I was praying up to a hundred times everyday – and in the night nearly as often. So that I would even remain in the woods and on the mountain in snow, frost and rain, waking to pray before first light. And I felt no ill effect, nor was I in any way sluggish – because as I now realise, the Spirit was seething within me.”
God later spoke to him in a dream telling him to catch a ship bound for his homeland, Britain. He had several hardships and miracles along the way home, but finally reached his friends and family. He could not settle into a life of ease, however, the people of Ireland called to him in his dreams and he knew he must return to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He suffered much as a missionary, being tortured, enslaved, and twelve times his enemies nearly killed him. But many were also converted to Christ and Patrick said “…daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity…but I fear none of these things. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty, who rules everywhere, as the prophet says: ‘Cast your cares upon God, and He shall sustain you’.”
After serving the people of Ireland for more than forty years and suffering untold trials, he said “The greatest gift in my life has been to know and love God; to serve Him is my highest joy.” Surely he fulfilled the scripture in Matthew 10:39 “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
Perhaps we can find a better way to honor this man who devoted his entire life to God and to serving his fellow men. I’ll start by teaching my children about the great man he was and the lessons we can learn from his life.