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St. Patrick: Why His Message Still Matters

0317patrick-irelandEbayMarch 17 is upon us again, and all over the world everyone is an honorary Irishman or Irishwoman for 24 hours. St. Patrick’s popularity is a result of the wanderlust of the Irish, and there is no corner of the world in which his name is not honored.

Yet, if his name is known, his story is less familiar and his message often gets drowned out by the parades, the plastic shamrocks and the green-dyed beer.

The little knowledge we have of him comes from two letters he wrote in the course of his missionary work in fifth-century Ireland.

In one, he fearlessly condemns a warlord who carried off some of his converts into slavery. The other document, known as his “Con­fession,” gives a moving account of his conversion and his work as a minister of the Gospel.

Patrick was born in the year 389 into a  comfortable Christian background in Roman-occupied Britain. Like others, he took his family, his faith and his good fortune for ­granted.

All this changed when a group of Irish raiders captured him and sold him and his young companions into slavery. Snatched from the comfort of his Roman villa, he found himself herding sheep and fending off wild animals on the side of an Irish mountain.

Exiled, abused and exploited, Patrick turned to Christ in his desperation, and the relationship of faith that followed transformed his own life and the lives of the Irish people.

Escaping from captivity, he returned to his family and became a priest.

He would perhaps have settled into a comfortable clerical career had it not been for a dream in which he heard the “voice of the Irish” begging him to “come and walk once more amongst us.” This he took as a summons to return and proclaim the freedom of Christ in the land of his captivity. It was a courageous decision and one that demanded all his reserves of courage and forgiveness.

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