In the late 4th Century A.D., Patrick was growing up in what is now NorthEast England. His people were “Britons”, one of the “Celtic” peoples then populating the British Isles, though Patrick’s aristocratic family had gone “Roman” during Roman occupation of England. So Patrick was more culturally Roman than Celtic. His family was Christian, and his grandfather was a priest. Patrick heard some of the teachings through his family, but became only somewhat of a Christian. He ridiculed the clergy, and lived toward the “wild side”.
When Patrick was 16, a band of Celtic pirates from Ireland invaded his region. He and several other young men were captured and forced onto a ship. They sailed to Ireland, and Patrick was sold into slavery to a prosperous tribal chief and druid named Miliuc, who put Patrick to work herding cattle.
During his years as a slave, Patrick experienced 3 major changes.
First, periods when Patrick was isolated in the wilderness herding cattle connected him with what theologians call the “natural revelation” of God. He sensed with the winds, the seasons, the creatures, and the nights under the stars the presence of God; he identified this presence as the Triune God he had learned about from his family. Here’s a quote from Patrick…
“After I had arrived in Ireland, I found myself pasturing flocks daily, and I prayed a number of times each day. More and more the love and fear of God came to me, and faith grew and my spirit was exercised, until I was praying up to a hundred times every day and in the night nearly as often.”
Patrick became a devout Christian, and the change was obvious to his captors.
Second, Patrick changed in another way…he came to understand the Irish Celtic people, and their language and culture, with the kind of intuitive profundity that is usually possible only, as in Patrick’s case, from the “underside”.
Third, Patrick came to love his captors, to identify with them, and to hope for their reconciliation to God. One day, he would feel they were his people.
One night, after 6 years in captivity, a voice spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, “You are going home, Look! Your ship is ready!” The voice directed him to flee for his freedom the next morning. He awakened before daybreak, walked to a seacoast, saw the ship, and negotiated his way on board.
Patrick returned to England, trained as a Priest, and served as a Priest in a parish in England.
One night, at the age for 48 – Patrick experienced another dream that was to change his life again. An angel named Victor approached him with letters from his former captors in Ireland. As he read one of the letters, he imagined that he heard the voice of those people, and they cried out as one voice, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
When Patrick woke up the next morning, he interpreted the dream as a call to take the Gospel to the Celtic peoples of Ireland. He asked the bishops to be sent on this mission. With the encouragement of the Pope, and the leaders, he was ordained as a bishop, and appointed to Ireland, as history’s first missionary bishop.
Why is this all significant? Come back tomorrow for more of the story!!!