A Life Dedicated to God: Saint Patrick of Ireland

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! – Isaiah 52:7

Saint Patrick lived more than 1,500 years ago, but the legacy he left behind is one of commitment to the Lord, dedication in ministry, and compassion for the souls of his fellow-man. Of course with the passage of time and in the manner which is so typical of modern society, it should not be surprising that the day we know as ‘Saint Patrick’s Day’ has been degraded through make-believe characters and pints of green beer. And so a day that should be observed with spiritual application is instead celebrated in a manner that serves as little more than a distraction from the intended deeper meaning.

Patrick was a Christ follower – a true believer, as revealed through his writing. The testimony of faith in Christ is unmistakable. His doctrine is pure and his understanding of Scripture seems to be as deep as the trained theologians of our modern age! Let’s take a look at Patrick’s life of faith by reading his own words, 1,500+ years after his death.

St. Patrick of Ireland: stained glass depiction

Much of what we know about Saint Patrick comes from his own writings, including the document called The Confessio, a sixty-two verse auto-biographical sketch that provides great insight into Patrick’s life, including his own understanding of personal faith.

He writes that while he was a youth and living far from home as a slave, God revealed Himself and he states in verse 2:

There the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief,
in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions
and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard
for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance…

He trusted fully in the Lord Jesus and Him alone for His salvation, clearly stating his belief in verse 4:

His son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity…

Patrick grew in faith, becoming a man of deep commitment through prayer, as he tells the reader in verse 16:

But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved… besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness,
in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because,
as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.

Patrick is known as a missionary to Ireland and he willingly returned to that land, even though he had been taken there as a slave in his teen years. Verse 38 describes his ministry:

I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace,
that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon
after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere
for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew
from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets:
To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth,
and shall say, Our fathers have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.

The life of Saint Patrick seems to have been one of consistency, walking daily with the Lord and helping many others come to the same knowledge of God through His Son Jesus. Verse 44:

I confess to my Lord and do not blush in his sight, because I am not lying; from the time when I came to know him in my youth, the love
of God and fear of him increased in me, and right up until now, by God’s favor, I have kept the faith.

The Confessio of Saint Patrick is a rich document and one that will encourage and bless the reader. As the long-ago saint comes to the end of his writing, he adds the following in verse 60…

We, on the other hand, shall not die, who believe in and worship
the true sun, Christ, who will never die, no more shall he die who
has done Christ’s will, but will abide for ever just as Christ abides
for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the
Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now and for ever
and ever. Amen.

So, as we observe Saint Patrick’s Day, perhaps we should take a few moments to consider the life and ministry of this great saint of God. And it would be wise to contemplate what Patrick had to say about knowing God and growing to know Him better.

A tradition holds that Saint Patrick of Ireland died at the age of 120 on this day – March 17 – in the year 493 AD.

© Jeffery J. Michaels / Plain English Publications 2015

(Quotations allowed with attribution to this blog)

The Declaration or ‘Confessio’ of Saint Patrick, written about 450 AD

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