Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, which will be celebrated by people getting drunk and acting the fool while wearing green and yelling “Kiss me, I’m Irish”. What does this have to do with St. Patrick? Not a single thing, and that is what makes me so sad, and more than a little angry.
Here are some things that the world at large will not tell you about St. Patrick; most likely because they don’t know themselves.
1.) Patrick of Ireland wasn’t Irish. He was Welsh, and the son of a Noble family
2.) Patrick of Ireland was taken by Irish raiders when he was 16 years old. He was stolen away from his grandfather’s estate.
3.) Patrick of Ireland was a slave for six years. According to Patrick he was “naked, hungry, abused, and in terrible want” during that time.
4.) Patrick of Ireland found Christ through suffering. Later he would write that when he was tending sheep as slave, he prayed to the Lord more than a hundred times a day.
5.) Patrick of Ireland was rescued by God’s miraculous intervention. Patrick had a dream where the Lord told him what route to take, and when to leave his master. There was a ship going back to Patrick’s home, but at first the sailors wouldn’t take him aboard. After he prayed and moved back to where he had hidden/stayed in the harbor, they called out for him to come that they would take him after all.
6.) Patrick of Ireland was not educated. He trained as Bishop to take up orders in the church but the Lord interrupted his schooling and he never completed his formal education (he could barely write in Latin).
7.) Patrick of Ireland was slandered by those in his own church. In several of his letters he writes to tell them that he isn’t coming home to answer the charges they have erroneously brought against him. They can figure out what he is (a Bishop or not), and when they know they can write and let him know.
8.) Patrick of Ireland spoke out about injustice he was very vocal about the mistreatment of women, children, and slaves in Ireland.
How do I know these things? Well for one thing I’ve read about Patrick in books like How The Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill and St. Patrick of Ireland by Phillip Freeman. I highly recommend both. However, I’ve gone one further than that, I’ve read what Patrick said about himself That’s right, some of Patrick’s words remain today. The most common one you can usually find at the library is called Confessions of St. Patrick. Don’t worry, it’s not some true-crime tale (which is what I thought it had to be when I first heard of it ). In Patrick’s day, when you wrote your Confession it was your testimony you were writing. At that time, confessions were usually penned towards the end of a Christian believer’s life with the intention of encouraging and exhorting those you were leaving behind. Rather a sweet tradition, I think. Patrick also penned it as a last defense against those who were slandering him.
Here’s part that really struck home to me, I’ve taken it from St. Patrick of Ireland, and this is Philip Freeman’s translation of the Latin. I love the frank and earnest tone he gives Patrick. In Philip Freeman’s notes on his translation, he says that is really what he wanted to come across to the readers; Patrick’s Latin isn’t high Latin of the Church, it’s “street Latin” if there could be such a thing.
Here’s Patrick, in his own words:
I am Patrick, a sinner. The most unsophisticated and unworthy among all the faithful of God. .. .I am very ashamed and afraid to show just how awkward my writing is. I am not able to explain things in just a few words like those who can write briefly. My mind and my spirit can’t even work together so that my words say what I really feel inside….Listen to me well, all of you, great and small, everyone who has any fear of God–especially you wealthy landowners so proud of your education—listen and consider this carefully: God chose foolish little me from among all of you who seem so wise and so expert in the law and so powerful in your eloquence. He picked ignorant Patrick ahead of you all—even though I am not worthy—He picked me to go forth with fear and reverence—and without any of you complaining at the time—to serve the Irish faithfully.
St. Patrick of Ireland, pgs 144-145
Now, I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of Christian I’d like to meet, and buy a pint and the local pub. He loved Christ greatly. His words and his life agree with one another, and he had no grand airs. Remember this Patrick, not the too-serious saint you might see in pictures, nor the strange fellow beating a drum and chasing out the snakes (that never happened), but this Patrick.
This is Patrick of Ireland.