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At the mention of shamrocks, leprechauns, and corned beef and cabbage, most will shout, “St. Patrick’s Day!” But do you know the real story behind the man who made this day famous?

At the age of 16, Patrick had little interest in God or church. That is, until he was kidnapped…

St. Patrick was born near the end of the fourth century in Roman Britain. His family was wealthy, and his father was a deacon in a Christian church. Patrick seems to have had no particular interest in religion at an early age, but that would drastically change. When Patrick was 16, his family’s estate came under attack by a group of Irish raiders. He was kidnapped and taken hundreds of miles away to the island country of Ireland, most likely to County Mayo near Killala. “I did not know the true God, and I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people – and deservedly so, because we had turned away from God and had not kept His commandments…” For the next six years he lived the lonely life of a shepherd where he had plenty of time to consider his relationship with God. “And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and then turn with all my heart to the Lord my God…” Patrick spent much of his days and nights in prayer and confession while on the mountainside and in the woods. “And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers…”

After six years as a captive, a voice spoke to him in a dream, “It is well that you fast. Soon you will go to your own country. See, your ship is ready.” See? Patrick was 200 miles from any shoreline! But with great faith in God’s ability to lead him, he left his sheep and escaped his captivity, walking those 200 miles to the coast. “And the day that I arrived the ship was set afloat…” After three days of sailing, they reached land but had a long trek ahead of them over deserted country. 28 days passed and most were famished. The captain, knowing of Patrick’s faith, confronted him, asking him to pray to his God to save them. “Be truly converted with all your heart to the Lord my God, because nothing is impossible for Him, that this day He may send you food on your way until you be satisfied; for He has abundance everywhere.” That very hour a herd of pigs appeared! For two days they feasted and rested and from that day they had plenty of food.

Patrick returned to his home in Britain, but while he was there, he received another call of God through a vision. “And there I saw in the night the vision of a man, whose name was Victoricus, coming as it were from Ireland, with countless letters. And he gave me one of them, and I read the opening words of the letter, which were, `The voice of the Irish’; and as I read the beginning of the letter I thought that at the same moment I heard the voice of those beside the Wood of Foclud, which is near the Western Sea – and thus did they cry out as with one mouth: `We ask thee, holy youth, come and walk among us once more.’ ”

So after spending many years in training, Patrick made his way back to Ireland, the land of his captivity, to bring the Gospel of Christ to a pagan people. One of his methods of explaining the concept of the Trinity was to use the shamrock, a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. Patrick infused new meaning by explaining that God is one God, like the shamrock, but exists in the form of three persons, as symbolized by the three leaves. He often used pagan symbols and attributed new meaning to them to gain their attention.

Patrick’s love for the Irish, which was oddly cultivated during those six years of captivity on a mountainside, only deepened throughout his life. In the last words of his writings from The Confessions of  St. Patrick (from which all of the above quotes were taken), he concludes;

“Behold, again and again would I set forth the words of my confession. I testify in truth and in joy of heart before God and His holy angels that I never had any reason except the Gospel and its promises why I should ever return to the people from whom once before I barely escaped.”

St. Patrick’s Day should be more than a day of green rivers, green shamrocks, and green beer. It should be a day to reflect on our own lives and consider, as Patrick did on that mountainside, our own relationship with God. Alone on a mountain with no one but sheep and God to talk to for six years may be extreme, but carving out some alone time away from the fast paced world we live in to ask important questions would be a good practice to engage in on a regular basis. Patrick died knowing he had accomplished the work God had called him to. I hope I will be able to say the same.

Geauga News
Author: Geauga News