Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! I hope you have all had a wonderful day. I read an interesting account of St. Patrick's life to my kids today, and thought you might be interested in hearing it, too. Sadly, there was no mention of the chasing away of the snakes (that was one thing I always admired him for!)
I am going to paraphrase from the book "Jesus Freaks II: Revolutionaries" by dc Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs. This is a really great book, as is their first book; "Jesus Freaks: Martyrs." They also have a third book out which I haven't read yet, called "Under God." It's on my list.
Patrick was captured from his home in England when he was 16, and taken to Ireland as a slave. During the six years that he spent there, he became closer to God. When he finally escaped and went back home, he studied for the ministry. He felt called to go back to Ireland to preach the Gospel. Twenty years later, he had his chance, and went back to the village in which he had been a slave. He intended to convert Milchu, his former master, but found that the man had burned his own house with himself in it. Patrick decided he had to deliver the people from their false gods.
Patrick learned that the High King of Ireland, King Laeghaire, would celebrate Beltine, a Druidic feast, at his courts in Tara. On the eve of the festival, the king was supposed to light the first bonfire. If anyone defied this, he would be put to death. So, Patrick set a fire as a challenge. The king ordered it put out, but it kept burning. He ordered Patrick to be executed, but the soldiers got confused and attacked each other.
Because of this, the king's chief bard, two daughters, and one of his brothers accepted Jesus on that day. Patrick was given legal sanction to preach throughout Ireland. He worked for the next thirty years, and successfully planted churches in every district in Ireland, He died on March 17, A.D.461 when he was around 72 years old.
As I was reading this, I was struck by the timing of it all. We think of Patrick as a Catholic saint, and indeed he is. However, it occurred to me that he was born less than 400 years after Jesus Christ. At that point, Christians were not divided into Catholic and Protestant. This was before the start of Islam, before the division of the church into Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox, and over 1,000 years before Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses which started the Protestant reformation. St. Patrick was not catholic or protestant. He was merely a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. May we all follow his example!