Saint Patrick is remembered as the man who drove the snakes from Ireland. Each March 17th, the color green is worn with pride and various forms of celebration erupt in western Europe and America.
However, the real story of St. Patrick is one of a man on mission. Not a mission to drive out snakes and party but to bring the power of the gospel to his Irish captors. In the fifth century, as the Roman Empire was collapsing, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland from his native Britain. He was 16 and was entrapped in slavery. Six years later, he escaped and returned home. In all of this God was at work in his heart.
Patrick determined to return to Ireland as a missionary. God granted him success and the gospel was spread throughout Ireland. Over the next 200 years, Celtic Christians, following Patrick’s example, brought the gospel to Britain, France and central Europe. Those Irish pirates had no idea that kidnapping a teenager to be their slave would be used of God to bring many thousands to Christ.
If you wear green this St. Patrick’s day, think of the green pastures of life. These pastures nourished many because one teenager refused to let the oppression of a godless culture shape his identity.
Here is a prayer from St. Patrick describing why he returned to Ireland:
“In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord—so many thousands of people.”
(prayer taken from Rediscovering the Church Fathers, published by Crossway Publishers)