Saturday, 17 March 2012

Hall of Faith Series: Men of Faith - St. Patrick

Since it is St. Patrick's Day today, I decided 'St. Patrick' would be my character for this week's 'Hall of Faith Series'. If you ask many people nowadays who St. Patrick was, they would most likely not know very much other than the myths and legends that have been weaved and weaved around him for countless generations. These legends have obscured the man behind those legends and made most of us (yes, even us Christians) forget why he became such a legend in the first place.

Patrick (c. A.D. 386-461) wrote very little about himself and no one during his lifetime wrote about him either. However, we are fortunately left with a few of his writings that tells us something of the true Patrick, a holy and humble man of great faith in God with a truly apostolic mission. The most important document is the Confessio or Confession (*I highly recommend reading it*). In it he sketches his life story - how he was captured by Irish slave traders, how he called on the Lord in the day of his distress and was saved, how he miraculously escaped his captivity and returned to his home in Briton, then how he was called back to the people who had enslaved him in order to preach the Gospel to them, and how he obeyed God's call despite the danger and difficulties

Paul Gallico said this about Patrick in his A Steadfast Man: A Life of St. Patrick,

He [Patrick] stands forth as a wonderfully human being, a man with almost all man's failings, yet touched by the divine. The testimony of his own hand exposes one who is not ashamed to admit that he owed everything to God, and that, had it not been for Him, he, Patrick, would have been other than he was.
Out of the pages of the Confessio arises the figure of a man of indomitable purpose and compelling spiritual power, who, as [Bishop] Secundinus [probably a nephew of Patrick] wrote in his hymn, 'in sincerity of heart had confidence in God'.
It is this sincerity, faith, and confidence - the utter subjection of himself to God - that gave Patrick his stature and account for the success that has placed him amongst the saints of the ages. 
 Patrick's trust in God breathes from every page and from every line he wrote. It replaced a confidence that he never felt in himself, for Patrick entertained no illusions as to his initial abilities and talents. But God made everything possible to him, helped him to overcome every obstacle, physical or spiritual, with which his adventurous life was studded. he walked armoured in this faith and nothing could touch him; not the swords and spears of his enemies, or the occasional envy or spite of his friends. 
It was this love for God and his dedication to the life, the work and the word of Christ that gave Patrick his steadfast and unchanging nature. God was Patrick's catalyst who fused and tempered his character. From the time that the boy Patrick discovered Him on the freezing slopes of Mount Slemish, there was not a thought or action that was not first funneled through God. Thus the Saint's line of action ran as straight as an arrow, undeviating, unwavering. It was impossible for him to act other than in concert with his God, who had called him to serve. He had the word of that God and that Christ, spoken through the Scriptures and the Gospels; he lived by them to the utmost of his ability and he asked of those about him and those whom he preached and converted to try to do likewise. And you will see, glittering from some of his paragraphs. like jewels, his joy when he succeeded. (p. 124-125) 

Patrick's faith in God and his obedience to His call to preach to the heathen Irish when nobody else thought it possible, changed the destiny and faith of a whole nation and influenced the development of Christian Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. The monasteries that dotted the Irish landscape became a bastion of learning during the troubled times of the barbarian invasions in Europe. The beautiful calligraphic manuscripts created and preserved in those monasteries awe us all, the Book of Kells, being a chief example. 
There is so much more to learn about Patrick, his faith and his work for the Lord, maybe I'll leave that for another post for now. Until then, however, I highly recommend watching the docu-drama Patrick (narrated by Liam Neeson), which tells Patrick's story really well and it's very encouraging. 

I'd like to end with this: 

A Poem by St.Patrick
Written by St. Patrick in 377 A.D.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.     

God Bless, 

References and Further Reading: 
- St. Patrick, Confession (available  online at )
Patrick Docu-Drama
- Paul Gallico, The Steadfast Man: A Life of St. Patrick, London: Michael Joseph, 1958.
- Mary Wilson, Builders and Destroyers, God's Hand in History A.D. 300-700, Book IV, London: Blandford Press, 1968, pp. 60-8


Shaz in Oz.CalligraphyCards said...

Wow Sarah this is one awesome post and amazing insight into some we know so little of may we too shine forth for the Lord Jesus Christ this day may He really have the pre-eminence in everything we do! Shaz.x

Joy said...

Yes, Patrick was truly a humble man of God. I was very inspired by his life and mission when we watched the film "Patrick" together. Thank you for sharing this, Sarah!

In His love,

Joy said...

Hey Sarah,

I just tagged you on my blog:

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