ST. Patrick is a figure in Christian history who exemplifies what a person can be when given to serve the Lord. Although this saint was a man who struggled with sin just like everyone else, yet he continued to grow in his knowledge of God that gave him a deep hunger to be used by God. This paper will focus on the life, ministry and the relationship that ST.  Patrick had with God.

            He was born in Rome in 385 AD and died on March 17th 461. His father “Calpurnius” was in local government and a deacon in his church. The Roman Empire was dying and had just recently been Christianized and the freedom that came from that was experience by his family. Although he grew up in this environment of Christianity it never seemed to affect his life.

            He did not believe in God. The stories of Martyrs that had gone before were surly passed on in this society that thrived off of oral tradition but no one knows for certain why he did not embrace his family’s faith at an early age. Paul Gallico’s states, “I know not, God knoweth- whether I was then fifteen years old; and I did not believe in the living God, nor did I so from my childhood, but lived in death and unbelief until I was severely chastised and really humiliated, by hunger and nakedness, and that daily.”[1] The human heart is wicked and this is what made him rebel against the God who created him in his unbelief. Although he did not believe in the one true God there was something that was going to happen in young ST.  Patrick’s life that would end up drawing him to God.

            At the age of sixteen ST. Patrick along with others was abducted by slave traders and taken to Ireland. On his arrival he was sold into slavery to a gentleman who owned sheep and there he served as a sheep herder for six years. There is nothing in any of his writings that said he was treated harshly during these six years; however, this was a new country far away from his family and the structured society that he knew back in Rome was gone. Ireland at that time had no national government, towns, economic structure or organized religion. Maire B. de Paor suggests, “It was evident, therefore, that the great bond of unity within Ireland was its common Gaelic language, culture, beliefs, laws and educational institutions, not its politico- economic system.” [2] In order for ST. Patrick to adapt to the culture he was in he had to learn how it worked. The country was broken down into different territories people would band together under one territorial king. These kings would constantly change with the ebb and flow of power and money. There was constant fighting between the different territories. This and his slave labor left young ST.  Patrick with no official education which would follow him the rest of his life.

            He would have had every opportunity for an education in Rome but instead he is tending to sheep out in a field. Lesley Whiteside states, “So, because of this, today I am ashamed, and agitated with fear, at exposing my lack of education; because I lack the fluency to express myself concisely, as my spirit longs to do and as I try with my heart and soul.”[3]  The lack in this fundamental area would be perceived as a weakness; however, God used it to show his strength being manifested in ST.  Patrick’s life.

             Although he was not being formally educated the Lord had something more important providently lined up for young ST.  Patrick, his conversion. There was a lot of time to think about the religion he grew up around and a lot of time for ST.  Patrick to ponder his sinful life. Mr. J. B. Bury states, “While he ate the bitter bread of bondage in a foreign land, a profound spiritual change came over him. He had never given much thought to his religion but now he was a thrall amid strangers, “the Lord,” he says, “opened the sense of my unbelief.”[4] One can’t help but think of Moses in the desert, Joseph in slavery, Paul in the desert for fourteen years and our Lord in the desert for forty days and forty nights. These men where fashioned for their ministries through the time of immense physical suffering and God seem to have done the same with ST.  Patrick.

His passion for the Lord grew very quick and he saw the importance of prayer in a believer’s life. In ST. Patrick’s writing Declaration he give us a glimpse to what type of prayer life he had, “I used to pray many times a day; more and more did my love of God and my fear of Him increase, and my faith and my spirit was stirred, and as a result I would say up to a hundred prayers in one day, and almost as many at night; I would even stay in the forest and on the mountain and would wake to pray before dawn in all weathers.”[5]  His intimacy for the God who created him was evident very early in his conversion and this was something that strengthened ST.  Patrick for the road that was ahead of him.

As the days went by he continued communion with his Lord and than one night he had a dream and the Lord told him to escape from his master. J.B. Bury states, “Escape was not easy, and it was beset with many perils. For a port where he may hope to find a foreign vessel was about a hundred and eighty miles from his master’s house.”[6]  This would be the biggest physical challenge that ST. Patrick had ever faced. The travel, unknown robbers, bandits and even getting caught by his master were only some of the present dangers that he faced. Still he continued, for he felt the Lord called him back to his homeland. Once he made it back to Rome his child like trust in the Lord continued and his understanding of the Lord continued to grow through sound doctrine. Lindsey Whitehead suggests, “I must teach the rule of faith of the trinity, which is, in part, his way of interpreting Christ’s call to missions.”[7] The rule of faith grew his understanding of God and what God called all believers to do. Before ST. Patrick even knew his divine call he knew the importance of sound doctrine found in scripture and the document “the rule of faith” articulated just that.

The second great turning point in ST. Patrick’s life was the call of God for him to go and preach the Gospel to the people of Ireland. Paul Gallico’s states, “There were voices of those he describes as being “beside the wood of Vocult, which is near the Western Sea- and thus did they cry out in one mouth: ‘We ask thee, boy come and walk among us.”[8] This was something that was bitter sweet his family tried to convince him not to go back to Ireland, yet he knew all the paganism that was in Ireland and the need for the Gospel their.

In his commitment to his Lord ST. Patrick would leave his mark on the country of Ireland for generations to come. Mr. Gallico states, “When St. Patrick died almost the whole of Ireland had been Christianized and the Catholic Church established. Christian ethics and church law had been made part of Irish law.”[9] This mans zeal to serve his Lord and his commitment to pray for the people he ministered to brought abundant fruit for his Lord’s kingdom. Does God still use men in this way? Yes. If we are willing to submit to God and grow in or understanding of who he really is He will promote His glory through us just like he did through St. Patrick. Unfortunately not many are willing to give their lives to our Lord the way ST. Patrick did. May this mans life challenge and encourage us to seek to be used by the God of all creation. 

Works Cited

Bury, J. B. The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History. London: The Macmillan and Co, 1905.

De Paor, Máire, Patrick, and Patrick. Patrick, the Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland: St. Patrick’s Confessio and Epistola. Dublin: Veritas, 1998.

Gallico, Paul. The Steadfast Man; A Biography of St. Patrick. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958.

Patrick, Allan B. E. Hood, and Muirchú maccu Macthéni. St. Patrick, His Writings and Muirchu’s Life. History from the sources. London: Phillimore, 1978.

Whiteside, Lesley. The Spirituality of St Patrick. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Pub, 1997.

[1] Paul Gallico, The Steadfast Man; A Biography of St. Patrick. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958, 22.

[2] Máire De Paor, Patrick, and Patrick. Patrick, the Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland: St. Patrick’s Confessio and Epistola. Dublin: Veritas, 1998, 30.

[3] Lesley Whiteside, The Spirituality of St Patrick. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Pub, 1997,54.

[4] J. B. Bury, The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History. London: The Macmillan and Co, 1905, 30.

[5] Allan B. E. Hood Patrick and Muirchú maccu Macthéni, St. Patrick, His Writings and Muirchu’s Life History from the sources (London: Phillimore, 1978), 44.

[6] J. B. Bury, The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History (London: The Macmillan and Co, 1905), 31.

[7] Lesley Whiteside, The Spirituality of St Patric. (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Pub, 1997), 20.

[8] Paul Gallico, The Steadfast Man; A Biography of St. Patrick (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958), 45.

[9] IBID., 48.