It’s St. Patrick’s Day once again! The following is excerpted from an article written by a Benedictine monk and medieval historian in which he shares some of the background behind the historical figure, and man of faith, whose life is commemorated today.
Patrick was born in the year 389 into a comfortable Christian background in Roman-occupied Britain. Like others, he took his family, his faith and his good fortune for granted.
All this changed when a group of Irish raiders captured him and sold him and his young companions into slavery. Snatched from the comfort of his Roman villa, he found himself herding sheep and fending off wild animals on the side of an Irish mountain.
Exiled, abused and exploited, Patrick turned to Christ in his desperation, and the relationship of faith that followed transformed his own life and the lives of the Irish people.
Escaping from captivity, he returned to his family and became a priest.
He would perhaps have settled into a comfortable clerical career had it not been for a dream in which he heard the "voice of the Irish" begging him to "come and walk once more amongst us." This he took as a summons to return and proclaim the freedom of Christ in the land of his captivity. It was a courageous decision and one that demanded all his reserves of courage and forgiveness.
But Patrick's story doesn't end there. From the "Confession" we learn that his mission was anything but an easy one: He was subjected to threats and extortion, his converts were enslaved and brutalized, and his own personal integrity was called into question.
For Patrick had a dark secret. Around age 15, he had committed a very serious crime. What the nature of this offense was he does not reveal, but it would have been an obstacle to his ordination had it been disclosed.
He confided this to a close friend, who subsequently betrayed his trust. In consequence, Patrick's mission was called into question and the "Confession" contains an anguished defense of his ministry in the face detractors, whom he dismissively addresses as "you men of letters, sitting on your estates."
You can read this article online here.