Do You Know the Story of St. Patrick?

Because I have some Irish heritage, and because I love a powerful gospel story, I have to share this inspiring history on St. Patrick's Day!  

Ireland was evangelized by St. Patrick, who has quite a compelling story. St. Patrick was born in the fourth century in what is present-day Scotland. While he grew up in a church family, he didn't have a personal faith commitment. That changed the day Irish raiders came to his town, torched his home, and took him to Ireland as a slave at sixteen years old. During that ordeal, St. Patrick dedicated himself to his faith. He later wrote, “The Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief in order that I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God.” St. Patrick eventually escaped and returned home. At age thirty, however, God called him to go back and evangelize his captors through a strange dream. He obeyed.

The impact that St. Patrick’s obedience has had is sweeping. He became one of the most successful evangelizers in history. He planted around 200 churches and converted 100,000 people. We know that he has an internationally-celebrated holiday named after him and a color (green) tied to his legacy. What I didn’t know, however, is that his conversions led to the formation of Irish monasteries that were a light during the Dark Ages. They expanded across Europe as centers of faith, worship, culture, and learning. One author, Thomas Cahill, argues that they single-handedly preserved Western Civilization as we know it during that period.

While St. Patrick is a credit to his faith, I can only imagine the internal struggle that occurred within himself before he returned to Ireland. How could I return to a people who hurt me to help them, Lord? Why choose me? Is your grace enough to see me fuel this complete heart turn with conviction? St. Patrick followed God’s vision for his life whatever befell. And while returning to his captors wasn’t easy, it is the grace he showed that probably made him so effective. 


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