Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 14, 2005
St. Patrick sets a sterling example
Light One Candle
Growing up in an Irish family, I was taught the famous legends of St. Patrick's driving snakes out of Ireland and using the shamrock to explain the Blessed Trinity. That, however, was the extent of my knowledge of the patron of Ireland until I started reading about him in recent years. As a result, I have come to think of St. Patrick as a role model for those of us who sometimes find following God's plan a challenge.
Anita McSorley, in a story in the St. Anthony Messenger, writes that scholars believe Patrick was born in Great Britain. At about 16 years old, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland where he lived as a slave for six years until he escaped and returned to Great Britain.
As a youth, Patrick was not religious, but during his days as a slave he returned to the Christian faith of his family, so much so that when he finally returned home, he entered a seminary wanting to become a missionary. His goal was to return to Ireland because he believed that God's plan for him was to convert Ireland to Christianity.
Going back to school after years as a slave was a challenge for Patrick. He was way behind his classmates and history has it that he never quite mastered the academics, which almost derailed his desire to be a priest. However, he worked unceasingly to educate himself, ultimately becoming so knowledgeable about the Bible that he regularly outshone most biblical scholars of his day.
Even after ordination, Patrick faced challenges in his desire to go back to Ireland. When his bishop wanted Patrick to stay home after ordination, Patrick was obedient, but would regularly ask to be permitted to go to Ireland. His determination and perseverance finally earned him permission to return.
Thomas Cahill, in his book, How the Irish Saved America, says Patrick went back to Ireland as a "tough guy . . . only a tough guy could survive" preaching the Gospel in a predominantly pagan country. Patrick believed God wanted him to convert Ireland and he would not be deterred. He had to be strong.
Anita McSorley also writes that Patrick's captivity made him so detest the idea of one person being owned by another that he preached against slavery. His impact was so great that the Irish stopped slave trading around the time of his death.
What I have learned in my reading about St. Patrick is that after he escaped slavery, the easy road would have been to go back to Great Britain and enjoy life, living off his well-to-do family. However, because he felt he had a God-given mission to convert Ireland, that is what he was going to do.
I have days when I simply feel that I don't have the energy to trust God's plan for me. I might have other ideas, but then I try to think about St. Patrick.
The Christophers believe that God has a plan for each of us and that he gives us the talents to accomplish it. Based on what we know about St. Patrick, in his youth he wasn't interested in what God wanted. Later, he didn't appear to have the academic talent to convert an entire nation. Yet, God worked his plan through Patrick and, as they say, the rest is history.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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