Articles

Patrick: A Courageous Missionary to Pagan Ireland

Patrick: A.D. c.389-c.461

Patrick, a young man raised by loving Christian parents, was thoroughly acquainted with the Bible and the evangelical faith. He was also greatly influenced towards faith in Christ by an old family friend by the name of Julias, who had been a slave in Ireland many years before.

One day when Patrick was sixteen years old, he was out working on his Father’s farm and became alerted to a disturbance on the beach near his house. He could tell something was going on by the loud cries of the sea gulls. Upon further investigation he discovered that “sea raiders” from Ireland had invaded the English coast and were preparing to attack the nearby village of Banavem. Knowing that he should warn his Father and Mother who were in the village Patrick tried to slip away undetected, but in his haste slipped and fell from a cliff overlooking the beach. As he tumbled downwards, he hit his head on a boulder and landed unconscious at the feet of the Irish leader. They tied him up in their boat and kidnapped him.

Much later, when Patrick awakened he realized that he would probably never see his parents or England again. He put himself in God’s providential care. However, God did not leave him all alone for Julius, his Father’s friend, had also been captured in the battle for Banavem. By God’s grace they managed to stay together in captivity.

For six long years Patrick served as a shepherd to an Irish chieftain by the name of Michlu (a Druid priest). He learned the language (Gaelic) and the local customs of the Irish, but he refused to worship the false deities of the Druid religion.

Strangely, many of the Druid Priests had widely prophesied that a man from over the sea that would humble the leaders of the land and lead the people to the Great God. The Druids greatly feared this man, yet they also acknowledged that he would cause them to take up “shepherd’s staffs” in submission to the Lord and end their war-like ways. Patrick often wondered who this man might be, but never dreamed that he was the very man! Julius in the meantime discipled him, as he would his own son, teaching him the doctrines of the Bible. Patrick said of this time, “The Lord opened to me the sense of my unbelief that I might remember my sins and that I might return with my whole heart to the Lord my God”.

It was during these formative years that Patrick grew in his own faith and in his desire to communicate the Gospel to the Irish people. His first interested listeners were the three children of Michlu: Gussacht, Emer, and Bronach.

After six years, Patrick escaped with Julias to France and eventually returned home to England. He believed that God had called him to become a minister of the gospel and he was ordained. During his studies he experienced an intense desire to return to Ireland in order to evangelize his former captors. He once had a dream where he heard a voice calling to him in Gaelic saying “Holy Boy, we beseech you to come and walk among us once more”.

Patrick finally returned to Ireland in 432, when he was 43 years old, and spent the next 30 years laboring there. He was appointed a missionary Bishop over that pagan land and risked his life many times in order to further the gospel. He had special ties to several of the chieftains and established many monasteries and preaching points throughout the land. He is the object of many legends and spurious tales, but none of these take away from the real man of God that he truly was. During his extended ministry he established thirty churches and baptized 120,000 persons. The following poem gives some idea of his courage in facing down the wicked Druids.

The Breastplate of Patrick

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles,
against the heart’s idolatry,
against the wizard’s evil craft,
against the death-wound and the burning,
the choking wave, the poison’d shaft,
protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
the strong name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and the One in Three,
of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word,
Praise to the Lord of my salvation:
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

In All of Life’s Battles — Christ is With You! Rev. Marcus J. Serven, Th.M.

Sources:
Cahill, Thomas, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Anchor Books, 1995. 
Christian History Magazine
, Vol. XVII, No. 4, Issue 60, “How the Irish Were Saved: The Culture & Faith of Celtic Christians”.
Douglas, J.D. (ed.), Who’s Who in Christian History, Tyndale Publishers, 1992.
Dowley, Tim (ed.), Lion’s Handbook to Church History, Lyon Publishing, 1977.
Neill, Stephen, A History of Christian Missions, 2nd edit., Penguin books, 1964.
Reynolds, Quentin, The Life of Saint Patrick, Random House, 1955.
Wace, Henry and Piercy, William (eds.), A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Hendricksen Publishers, reprint edit., originally published in 1911.
Woodbridge, John D., Great Leaders of the Christian Church, Moody Press, 1988.

Copyright March 2006. Rev. Marcus Serven, Th. M.
Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved.

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