|Source: History Channel|
Despite being one of Christianity’s most widely known figures, most Christians remain unaware of the true story of St. Patrick. Born in the Roman occupied Britain near the end of the fourth century, St. Patrick was the son of wealthy parents. His father was a Christian deacon, an extremely lucrative position at that time, because it allowed occupants to collect and distribute tithes. Though his father held this position with the church, evidence suggests that St. Patrick did not grow up in a very religious home.
At the age of 16, St. Patrick was taken prisoner by Irish raiders and spent the next 6 years of his life in Irish captivity. Working as a shepherd, he spent most of his time in isolation away from his captors, wandering the Irish hill country with his herds. During this time, he began having a series of dreams and visions that led him to deepen his faith and contemplate becoming a Christian missionary among his captors.
Inspired by a dream, St. Patrick walked approximately 200 miles to the Irish coast and escaped with merchants back to Britain. After his escape and brief time away, St. Patrick had another divine dream and felt called to return to Ireland as a missionary.
This calling was daunting, given the nature of his escape and the potential penalties returning would bring. To prepare himself for the journey, St. Patrick committed himself to a fifteen year regimen of study and instruction. He was ordained as a priest with a charge to minister to the existing Christian communities in Ireland and to help evangelize the wider population.
Familiar with Irish language and culture from his time in captivity, St. Patrick skillfully incorporated aspects of Irish culture into his preaching making him one of the most effective priests on the island.
Though it is widely believed that St. Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland, his dual ordination mission of ministering to existing communities and evangelizing the wider population suggests that Christians were already thriving in small numbers on the Irish mainland. Nonetheless, his ministry was a huge success.
As Christianity continued to flourish and gain popularity by the sixth century, tales of Patrick’s ministry and miracles became an integral part in fomenting Irish pride. Patrick was later named the patron saint of Ireland, despite never being officially canonized by the Catholic Church.
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world in many countries as a time to reflect on the imports of evangelism and missions, while simultaneously serving as a day of cultural pride for persons of Irish descent around the world.
Source: History Channel