We know about the real St. Patrick (or Magnus Sucatus Patricius) because he wrote a record of his life called Confessions. As a young boy Patrick lived a comfortable life near an English coastal city where his father was a deacon in their church. But at the age of 16, his comfortable life unraveled. Irish pirates attacked his village, abducting Patrick and many of the household servants. After arriving in Ireland, Patrick was sold as a slave to a Druid tribal chieftain who forced Patrick to work with a herd of pigs.
In the midst of the squalor of pig filth, God began to transform Patrick’s heart. In his Confessions he wrote, “I was sixteen and knew not the true God, but in a strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and I was converted.” Patrick became convinced that the kidnapping and homesickness were actually opportunities to know Christ better. “Anything that happens to me,” he wrote, “whether pleasant or distasteful, I ought to accept with [serenity] giving thanks to God … who never disappoints.” Knowing that this serenity didn’t come from his own strength, Patrick wrote, “Now I understand that it was the fervent Spirit praying within me.”
After serving as a slave for six years, Patrick escaped, boarded a boat, and found his way back home. At long last, he was on British soil, warmly embraced by his family and his community. In his own mind Patrick was done with Ireland for good. According to Patrick, “It is not in my nature to show divine mercy toward the very ones who once enslaved me.”
Once again, God would change Patrick’s heart. Partially through a dramatic dream, Patrick knew that God had called him to return to Ireland—not as a slave, but as a herald of the gospel. His family and friends were understandably horrified by his decision. “Many friends tried to stop my mission,” Patrick wrote. “They said, ‘Why does this fellow waste himself among dangerous enemies who don’t even know God?'”
Despite these objections, in A.D. 432 Patrick used his own money to purchase a boat and sail back to Ireland. Patrick spent the rest of his life preaching the gospel in Ireland, watching many people come to Christ. He also passionately defended the human rights of slaves. Besides hisConfession, his only other remaining written work is the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, a scathing protest sent to King Coroticus and his soldiers after they raided a village, slaughtering the men and selling the women into slavery.
For the rest of his life, Patrick would remain captivated by the grace of God. In his Confessionshe wrote:
And I am certain of this: I was a dumb stone lying squashed in the mud; the Mighty and Merciful God came, dug me out and set me on top of the wall. Therefore, I praise him and ought to render him something for his wonderful benefits to me both now and in eternity.
The shamrock was a teaching tool that St Patrick used to teach the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to Irish pagans.
Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. So complete was his trust in God, and the importance of his mission, he feared nothing – not even death.
Here is a poem written by St Patrick entitled “The Breastplate,” that conveys his faith and trust in God:
“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
Special thanks to preachingtoday.com