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Patrick, Aware of His Unbelief, Converted a Nation | KFP Articles
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Saturday, 16 March 2013 05:47

St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, was born in Brittain to parents who were part of the Roman ruling class.  Patrick himself tells us that he was neglectful of religion as a boy, perhaps due to the moderate Christian atmosphere in which he lived, and recalls a committing a sin in his early teen years that would trouble his conscience long after.  At the young age of sixteen Patrick was taken into captivity in the north east part of Ireland where he was a shephard in the woods and on the mountainside.  What I find most interesting about the story of Patrick is the role that his experience as a slave had in his conversion.  As a slave he learned his dependence on God and became deeply aware of his own sinfulness. 

We are very fortunate to have the writings of St. Patrick.  Patrick tells of his conversion and its relationship to his captivity in his Confessio. He is considered to have been a nominal Christian prior to his being taken captive and placed into slavery in Ireland.  His Confessio is a great testimony to the Presence of Christ.

In Patrick's own words from the Confessio:

I Patrick, "A sinner,' very rustic, and the least fo all the faithful,

and very contemptible in the estimation of most people,

had as father a deacon named Calpornius, the son of Potitus a priest

Who was in the town Bannaventa Berniae; he had an estate nearby;

where I was captured.

I was then only sixteen years of age.  I was indeed ignorant of the true God.

and I was taken into captivity to Ireland with so many thousands of people,

and deservedly so, because 'we turned away from god',

and 'we did not keep watch over his precepts', and we did not obey our priests,

who kept warning us about our salvation;

an The Lord 'pored down upon us the heat of his anger 'and dispersed us among'

many 'pagans' even 'to the ends of the earth',

where now my littleness is seen to be maong an alien people.

And there 'the lord opened my heart to an awareness of my own unbelief'

so that, perhaps, I might at last remember my sins,

and that 'I might turn with all my heart to the Lord my God,'

who 'turned his gaze round on my lowliness'

and had mercy on my youth and ignorance

and kept watch over me before I knew him

and before I was wise or could distinguish between good and evil,

and he protected me and comforted me as a father a son.

"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred payers and in the night, nearly the same...I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."

 Patrick remained in captivity for some six more years until he heard in a dream a voice telling him to head to the coast to a ship.  He found what appears to have been a merchant boat and escaped Ireland, possibly to northern Gaul, and returned home a few years later.  It was there that he had a dream calling him back to Ireland.  In this dream the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."  Patrick studied for the priesthood under St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre and was ordained a priest and eventually a Bishop.  He was sent to Ireland to bring the Gospel in the year 433. 

It is believed that Patrick went to Ireland to the northeast part to serve a Christian community there.  During his time in Ireland as Bishop to this community charges were made against Patrick by the British Bishops and he was condemned.  The Confessio was a response to the charges made against him by the British that he had left the people of his Christian community, possibly seeking profit.  The charges occurred some thirty years after he confessed his boyhood sin.

Following the voice of God, that had come to him through his dreams, Patrick went out among the pagans and converted Ireland.  The relationship between Patrick's humble situation as a slave, his awareness of his own sin and evangelical spirit is the lesson that I take with me this St. Patrick's day morning. 

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