On his feast day, learn a little more about the patron saint of Ireland and how he can inspire you.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! On the feast of the famous 5th-century saint, we can take a look back at his life and see what we can learn from the many challenges he faced. One thing is certain: the patron saint of Ireland was driven by his deep faith and convictions and wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed to be right.
Here are just a few examples inspired by the findings of Lisa Bitel, a professor of history and religion, of how St. Patrick found strength in doing what was right, no matter the consequences, and how you can try and emulate him.
Patrick was not born in Ireland. He lived in Bannavem Taburniae, which scholars can’t locate precisely, but probably somewhere on the west coast of England or Wales. The problem was that it was a prime location for Irish slave traders to capture the teenage Patrick and take him back to Ireland to work in the fields.
While Patrick could have understandably been angry by his enforced captivity, he gracefully took it as a punishment from God for having strayed from his faith. “It was there 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 … ” he explains in St Patrick’s Confessio.
Having re-discovered his faith, Patrick found nothing but gratitude in his circumstances: “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.”
2Find answers in prayer
Patrick prayed a lot. In fact he prayed so much that one day while out chasing sheep he heard a voice informing him that his ship was ready. He took note of the voice and managed to escape. How wonderful it is that he listened to the voice and didn’t doubt it.
Patrick had visions. When he’d returned to his home in Britain, he had a vision in which an angel came with a message from the Irish: “We beg you, Holy Boy, to come and walk again among us.” Patrick responded to this vision by becoming a bishop before heading back to Ireland.
3Stand up to authority … when you should!
A rather bizarre sailing tradition at the time was to suck the captain’s breast to show you acknowledge his authority. If you didn’t carry out the ritual you weren’t able to go aboard the ship. Patrick, however, wasn’t having any of it. He refused and went about converting the crew. Strangely enough, the captain didn’t deny him voyage.
4Respect the Lord’s name
While the points above are taken from St. Patrick’s Confessio, legend has it that one day, while dueling with Irish native druids, one of them dared to blaspheme God. A furious Patrick responded with a move that left the druid with a cracked skull. (Learn the respect part from Patrick, not necessarily the skull-cracking.)
5Don’t be afraid to ask God for what is important
Another legend states that St. Patrick was a little demanding of God. Yes, he bravely went up a hill and stayed there for 40 days refusing to eat, being violent, and crying, until he got what he wanted. He had the temerity to demand that “he would redeem more souls from hell than any other saint; he, rather than God, would judge Irish sinners at the end of time; and the English would never rule Ireland.”
While we’ll never know if God will fulfill these rather outrageous demands, the first on the list is looking pretty good!