Written by: Adam Chaney
Saint Patrick is one of the church’s most famous and well-known saints. Yet, there are many misconceptions about the man and the holiday that celebrates his life.
Sold Into Slavery
Often, people think Saint Patrick was Irish, but he wasn’t. Patrick was born in Roman Britain, sometime around 389 A.D. At some point between age 14-16, Patrick was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. As a slave, he was forced to be a pig herder.
Patrick went from the warm embrace of his home to herding pigs in an unknown land, exposed to sleet and cold, starving on the rain-soaked coast of rural Ireland. Yet, in the midst of tragedy and weakness, Patrick turned to the Lord to sustain him.
In his published work called, The Confession of Patrick, he says of that time:
“Constantly, I used to pray in the daytime. Love for God and His fear increased more and more. My faith grew and my spirit was stirred up. In a single day, I said as many as a hundred prayers, and at night nearly as many. Before the dawn, I used to wake up to prayer.”
During young Patrick’s years of bondage and abuse, he turned to prayer as his only comfort. One night, Patrick had a prophetic dream, in which, God told him to leave Ireland by going to the coast. At great risk, Patrick obediently and faithfully followed the Lord’s leading and, sure enough, there he found a company of sailors who took him back to Britain. After six years of torturous enslavement, Patrick escaped his captors and made the difficult voyage back to his own land.
St. Patrick’s God Encounter
Now that he was back in a familiar place, he continued to pursue the Lord with all of his being. He did not stop praying and, as a result, the Spirit kept the Irish people, his former slaver masters, on his mind and heart. Some years later, Patrick had a vision, in which God spoke to him again.
He reports, “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea-and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
Patrick was deeply moved by the vision and knew it was from God. In response, Patrick decided to be a slave of Christ and returned to those who held him in bondage, as a witness of God’s love and forgiveness.
Upon returning to Ireland on March 25, 433, Patrick was promptly met with rejection and threats to his well-being. There are several stories about Patrick’s interaction with the Druids, but the most prominent one claims that Patrick encountered a high-level Druid chieftain, who immediately attempted to kill Patrick. The attempt was unsuccessful, reportedly due to a miraculous intervention from angels. Patrick then preached the gospel to the chief and his tribe, which led them all to Christ.
Patrick ministered throughout Ireland, tribe by tribe, village by village. There are many stories about supernatural and miraculous occurrences as Patrick prayed and preached. He often used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity and entire kingdoms were eventually converted to Christianity after hearing Patrick’s message.
St. Patrick Survived Trafficking And Changed The World
One history of Patrick’s life recalls,
“The blind and the lame, the deaf and the dumb, the palsy, the lunatic, the leporous, the epileptic, and all who labored under any disease, did he in the name of the Holy Trinity restore unto entire health, … 33 dead men did this great reviver raise from the dead…and in these good deeds he was daily practicing.”
After almost 40 years of ministry to the people who enslaved him, Patrick led the vast majority of Ireland to Christ. After years of living in poverty, homelessness, and enduring much suffering, Patrick died on March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first Irish church.
Saint Patrick was not some mythical figure who drank green beer and searched for the end of rainbows. He is not a joke resulting in gross stereotypes. Rather, Patrick was a survivor of child trafficking and slavery. He was exploited and abused by people who thought of him as less than human. Yet, Patrick persevered in the midst of unimaginable circumstances and ultimately experienced wholistic transformation as he faithfully followed Jesus Christ. He then reshaped the world!
To Overcomers of Trafficking
Patrick’s story makes me think about many of the women Elijah Rising encounters each week during intervention outreach. These women are often misunderstood, stereotyped, and made fun of by most of society. They are seen as prostitutes and criminals if they are seen at all.
But the truth is, many of them are the next saints who will turn the world upside and bring revival to the nations. They are the ones who will transform society and shape culture for the future. These are the women who will eventually bring an end to the injustice of sex trafficking as they raise their voices to be heard by those in power. These are the women who will lead a movement that results in the repentance of many oppressors. These are the women who will give hope to those who see no other way. These are the women who will reshape the world, like Patrick. Perhaps, one day, they too will have a holiday named after them, in which, people celebrate their story of perseverance and faith.
So, no matter how you plan to spend St. Patrick’s day, take a moment to reflect upon the true story of a remarkable saint and remember the thousands of people who are currently being oppressed by the injustice of trafficking.
And take a moment to pray, consider using the words of Saint Patrick’s prayer:
From, Saint Patrick’s
“Breast Plate Prayer”
I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me
From snares of devils, From temptation of vices, From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
 From the Confession of Saint Patrick, as quoted in The Apostolic Church, Pierce & Heidler, 2015, pg. 163.