It’s that ever-so-green time of year again. As a reminder of the who and where and why of this holiday, please enjoy my review of an excellent biography of Saint Patrick by Jonathan Rogers (one of Thomas Nelson’s “Christian Encounters” series). If the Irish really are “lucky,” it started with the sacrifice of this amazing and humble man.
Christian Encounters Series
Forget the snakes, shamrocks and blarney stones. The patron saint of Ireland wasn’t even Irish. He didn’t eat corned beef and cabbage or drink green beer either. But what he did do was step beyond the boundaries of what was then considered the civilized world (The Holy Roman Empire) to share the gospel of Christ. As far as we know, he was the first Christian missionary–called to return to Ireland to serve a barbarian people who had kidnapped him in England at age sixteen and sold him into slavery to work herding sheep for a cruel, pagan master.
Sure, dozens of legends exist about Saint Patrick that elevate his works and words into something of a mystical character. And although the author includes a few of them, none is substantiated, according to biographer Jonathan Rogers, nor do any hints of these miraculous events occur in Saint Patrick’s two known writings. In my estimation, the truth about him is much more interesting than the fiction, as he was a man who had no use for either the civil or religious authorities of his day. He took his marching orders from the Highest Authority alone, risking everything to bring Christianity to Ireland. Rogers says, “. . . an important point in Patrick’s theology [was] the idea Christ was at work in him and through him quite independently of his ability or wisdom or eloquence.”
It has been a few decades since I’ve read a scholarly biography, and Rogers impressed me with his careful documentation yet conversational presentation of this true hero of our faith. I was reminded of Moses’ instruction to the children of Israel to: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee (Deut. 32:7). In the story of Saint Patrick, we are reminded of what God will do through a redeemed and relinquished soul. Rogers concludes: “They [the Irish] saw in Patrick’s person—in his very presence among them—that forgiveness was possible, that hardship need not result in bitterness—and that the meek just might inherit the earth after all.”