Today is the Feast of Saint Patrick, Missionary Bishop and Patron of Ireland

It was there [in a foreign land] that the Lord opened up my awareness of my lack of faith. Even though it came about late, I recognised my failings. So I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness  and had mercy on my youthful ignorance. He guarded me before I knew him, and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish between good and evil. He protected me and consoled me as a father does for his son.

That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.

St Patrick’s Confessions

Patrick was born in Britain, in the region of Carlisle. The son of a deacon he was brought up a Christian although he was, at best, initially only nominal in his faith. At the age of 16 he was kidnapped by pirates and forced to work as a shepherd in Ireland. During his captivity Patrick turned to God, eventually escaping his captors and returning to Britain. Details of his escape are sketchy, but it is known that he travelled 200 miles from his place of captivity to a seaport. The adventures and escapades of his journey home honed his reliance upon God, and when he finally returned to his family he felt that he should become a priest, and began a period of training that was to last for several years.

According to tradition, some years later in 431 Patrick, newly consecrated bishop, returned to Ireland. He devoted himself to evangelism, reconciliation amongst local chieftains, and the training of monks and nuns. He made frequent journeys throughout Ireland, and significantly influenced the island for Christ, laying the foundation for the Church for the years ahead.

At some point in his life Patrick was the subject of a vitriolic attack on his character. In response he wrote the Confessions – his personal account of his life. Patrick contrasted himself with learned and powerful men more concerned with political survival than in preaching the gospel. He is revealed as a man who experienced grace in a powerful way, and who chose to evangelize an unreached land in preference to Britain, whilst still remaining attached to his roots as a Romanized Celt, and thus to the Christians of Roman Gaul. Patrick is remembered as a man who trusted God against the odds.

Extract from Saints on Earth: A biographical companion to Common Worship by John H Darch and Stuart K Burns

Almighty God,
who in your providence chose your servant Patrick
to be the apostle of the Irish people:
keep alive in us the fire of the faith he kindled
and strengthen us in our pilgrimage towards the light of everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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