“And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son” (The Confession of St. Patrick, chapter 2).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, New American Standard Bible).
Millions of Irish people (both in Ireland and around the world) celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. For many, it is a celebration of Irish heritage, filled with leprechauns, beer, corned beef and cabbage, etc.
However, for Christians, it is a day to commemorate the man who brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Irish during the 5th century. From a human perspective, he was not a likely candidate. However, by exemplifying Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, he showed us the power of a peacemaker in the hands of God.
Patrick’s birth name was Maewyn Succat. He was the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest (Catholic priests were allowed to be married and have children in those days), born and raised somewhere in Britain (possibly southern England or Wales). By his own account, he was not committed to his father’s faith. As a teenager, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he was forced to herd his master’s sheep. It was at this time that he devoted his life to Christ, spending many hours in prayer while working. After seven years, he escaped and was able to return to Britain, where he began to study for the priesthood.
God called him to return to Ireland, the land of his captors, and preach the Gospel to them. Although many become bitter toward an ethnic group whose members oppressed them, St. Patrick developed a love for the people that inspired him to share the good news of salvation with them.
We can choose bitterness, resentment, or revenge. Maewyn Succat chose forgiveness. By recognizing his need for God’s presence and protection, he went from being a grandson of a priest to being a child of God by faith in Christ. By sharing the Gospel in a country where others had failed to make an impact, he brought God’s peace to what was then considered “the ends of the earth.”
Christian biographer James Kiefer observed that “To say that he single-handedly turned Ireland from a pagan to a Christian country is an exaggeration, but is not far from the truth.” Before he arrived, there was only a handful of Christians in southern Ireland. By the time he entered glory, most Irish were Christians. Unlike other countries where there was large-scale conversion, no military force was involved.
By the end of his life and ministry, he was so devoted to his God and the people he served that he wrote of himself as being fully Irish, as if he had spent his entire life there.
(A little bonus trivia: “Patrick” is the anglicized form of the Latin word “Patricius,” meaning “father.” As a priest, we would call him Father Maewyn Succat, or in Latin “Magonus Sucatas Patricius.” So, to this day, those who honor his memory are simply calling him “Father.” Talk about being “the father of your country”!)
Lord, thank you for the example of St. Patrick, who loved and forgave those who enslaved them and shared the Gospel of salvation that they may be saved. Give us hearts of forgiveness and compassion, that we may desire blessing and pursue salvation for those who hurt us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
How can you show God’s love to those who have hurt you? Share your thoughts below.
Copyright © 2023 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.
One response to “St. Patrick: Peacemaker and Son of God”
Awesome educational read.
Thanx for this.