by Brian Phillips
This was first delivered as an exhortation at Holy Trinity & first posted by The CiRCE Institute.
Patrick was kidnapped, and sold into slavery on the pagan island of Ireland. Later, when he managed to return to Rome, he was converted to Christianity and God called him to return to Ireland as a missionary. To the dismay of his friends and family, Patrick went, eventually being named bishop of Ireland.
Patrick would get into some trouble as a bishop because he insisted on trying evangelize the pagan Irish (quite a dangerous business) instead of simply shepherding the Christians who were already there in Ireland. We know that from one of the few writings of his we have remaining.
There is a hymn, known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which is attributed to him and it has become a favorite in our church. The third verse:
“I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead
His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need,
The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The Word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.
And the eighth verse:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
This beautiful hymn reminds us, powerfully, of our complete and utter dependence upon God for all things – a truth Patrick doubtless needed to remember in his ministry in Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on Friday (March 17), so remember the man who devoted himself to serve his enemies, a man who helped plant a Christian culture in of a decidedly pagan one, a man who loved the Lord enough to do what he was called to do, day in and day out, in the midst of great difficulty.
He labored for 40 years in Ireland, faithfully proclaiming Christ, and many came to embrace the faith. Near the end of his life of constant hardship, Patrick was asked if it had all been worth it. He replied, “The greatest gift in my life has been to know and love God; to serve Him is my highest joy.”
For more on St. Patrick, take a listen to Episode 8 of The Commons, in which I interview Dr. Jonathan Rogers, author of Saint Patrick (Christian Encounter Series).