Whenever there are remembrances or celebrations of some important historical person or period of time, I welcome it. It provides a time to teach, to remember and to learn. Today we remember Patrick, missionary to Ireland.
There is much more to Patrick than what is remembered and celebrated during the annual St. Patrick’s Day. Even though the “much more” consists of some myth and legend, it also consists of a true disciple of Christ who had experienced new life and was given a new mission.
- He was born (387 AD) into a Christian family in Britain.
- As a teenager he was captured and taken to Ireland where he was sold as a slave.
- Approximately six years later he escaped and returned home to Britain.
- While there, God called him to go back to those who had enslaved him to serve as a missionary to convert the pagans to Christianity.
- He returned to Ireland to serve Christ as a missionary to the Irish.
There are a few things that Patrick did that were exemplary.
- He was burdened to evangelize. He knew the gospel of Jesus Christ was the hope for this people.
- He evangelized and discipled, i.e. he propagated the gospel so that people might hear and believe, and he built up and edified believers.
- He was anchored in the Bible.
- At a time when women were seen as a commodity, he upset the social order by teaching women they were free in Christ.
- Though there were others who were committed to evangelize, he was the first to consider bringing the gospel to the nations.
As we consider history, this is also an opportunity to share one of the periodicals that has been very insightful over the years: Christian History (I have every issue published, and it is a periodical I commend to you). Issue 60 addressed “How the Irish Were Saved” and Mary Cagney wrote the article on “Patrick the Saint.” Here is her conclusion:
It is difficult to separate fact from fiction in the stories of Patrick’s biographers. It is historically clear, however, that Patrick was one of the first great missionaries who brought the gospel beyond the boundaries of Roman civilization. According to tradition, he had established bishops throughout northern, central, and eastern Ireland. Only Munster, in the south, was to remain pagan until a century after Patrick’s death.
Patrick was the ultimate model for Celtic Christians. He engaged in continuous prayer. He was enraptured by God and loved sacred Scripture. He also had a rich poetic imagination with the openness to hear God in dreams and visions and a love of nature and the created.
He is, then, most worthy of the appellation saint, as one “set apart” for a divine mission. As such, he became an inspiring example. Hundreds of Celtic monks, in emulation of Patrick, left their homeland to spread the gospel to Scotland, England, and continental Europe.
It is a legacy Patrick was proud of: “For God gave me such grace, that many people through me were reborn to God and afterward confirmed and brought to perfection. And so then a clergy was ordained for them everywhere.”
Today we remember and thank the Lord for those who served the Lord faithfully in their generation (cf. Acts 13:36). Patrick was one of those. May we be challenged today to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ in our own setting in our own generation.