No. 32 - 19th March 2017

Friday was a very special day for the Irish. Just listen to this. It was written more than 1600 years ago, some time in the 5th Century. “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae. His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time”.

I’m talking about St Patrick of course, the patron saint of Ireland. His parents were Romans, pretty rich and living somewhere down the West Coast of Roman Britain. When he was sixteen, a band of Irish raiders kidnapped Patrick and took him back to Ireland where he was sold as a slave, and put to work as a herdsman, tending sheep on the slopes of Slemish. For the rest of his life, Patrick never got over the fact that out there, a slave on a lonely hillside, he met with God, and that God had mercy on him. In his biography, the Confessio, he writes “After I arrived in Ireland, I tended sheep every day, and I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God. Faith grew, and my spirit was moved, so that in one day I would pray up to one hundred times, and at night perhaps the same”. And then later, he says, “That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven”.

Well, after six years in slavery, Patrick escaped and finished up in Gaul, what we now call France, where he trained as a priest and later returned to Ireland as a missionary. He won thousands of converts all over Ireland, setting up schools and churches and monasteries. Of course he met with fierce opposition from some of the Chieftains and the Celtic Druids, but he never lost his vision of seeing lives changed and people coming to know God through his Lord Jesus Christ. Good on you Patrick. What a hero!

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