Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it was fitting to post a synopsis of one of my most recent reads, St. Patrick of Ireland by Philip Freeman.
I was in Barnes & Noble at the beginning of the month, armed with their Groupon from a month or so ago, and came across their St. Patrick’s Day display. I realized that I knew next to nothing about St. Patrick and decided that I should remedy that. I feel a strong connection to my Irish heritage and really wanted to learn about this man who was sainted and had a day named after him. Was he just some Irish dude that drove the snakes out of Ireland? Is St. Patrick’s Day really just an excuse for debauchery?
I dove into St. Patrick head first and learned so much! Not only did he not drive the snakes out of Ireland (writers born long before Patrick say that Ireland had no snakes), but he was an exceptionally devoted man of God. According to the book, which is based on Patrick’s own letters, he was kidnapped from his British home at the age of fifteen and served six years of slavery to an Irish master before the Lord brought him back to his native home. A short time later, the Lord spoke to him in dreams telling him to go back to Ireland to spread the Gospel among that pagan people. He obeyed, and because of his obedience, many Irish were brought to Christ and Christianity began to spread.
As I began to read more about Patrick, I was awestruck by his humility, grace, and love for his Savior and for the people who had previously enslaved him. The only real knowledge we have of Patrick is from his letters, which the author includes in the book, and I really was impressed. They don’t give much detail, but they are full of praise for His Lord and his devotion comes across loud and clear.
Philip Freeman does an excellent job of giving the reader insight into Patrick’s world. He includes information about Roman politics at the time (Britain was still under Roman rule in the fourth century), the state of the Church, the state of Ireland, and much more. I learned a great deal about Patrick and the world around him, and the writer does an excellent job of separating myth from truth.
It makes me sad to think of how this man’s life is celebrated today. We use this day as an excuse to consume large amounts of alcohol to commemorate the life of a Godly man and Irish culture. It’s sad that this is how the Irish as a people are known (but, really, don’t we do the same thing with all cultures?), and I’m quite certain that Patrick would be grieved.
He reminds me a lot of the Apostle Paul. Read his letter Confession sometime. It’s really good.
If I have ever done anything worthwhile for the God I love, I ask that I might be allowed to die here for his name with these converts and slaves — even if it means that I won’t have a marked grave or that my body is torn apart piece by piece by dogs or wild animals or that I serve as a meal for the birds of the air. I know if that were to happen, I would gain my soul along with a new body on that day we will undoubtedly rise again like the sun in the morning — like the son Jesus Christ our redeemer. We will become like children of the living God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, so that by him through him, and in him, we will be like kings.
My final prayer is that all of you who believe in God and respect him—whoever you may be who read this letter that Patrick the unlearned sinner wrote from Ireland—that none of you will ever say that I in my ignorance did anything for God. You must understand—because it is the truth—that it was all the gift of God.