Who – Really – Was St. Patrick? (Part 1)

By Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International

March 17 is fast approaching! Before you plan a traditional menu around corned beef, or decorate with green shamrocks and dance Irish jigs, dig a little deeper into the recorded truth about this man we call a saint.  You’ll find that he didn’t start out as an Irishman, he didn’t remain in the Roman Catholic system, and he didn’t rescue Ireland from snakes.  He may have used the three-part leaflet of the shamrock to illustrate the Trinity.  He is, however, one of the greatest heroes of all times.  I liken him to the Western Church’s greatest missionary statesman – second only to the Apostle Paul!

If you’re interested now, I’d like to recommend two small books that go well, in tandem, to presenting the inestimable value of what God accomplished through this bold, godly man.  One is How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill (New York: Doubleday, 1995).  This is essentially a secular book but the second is written by a conservative Christian: George G Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism  (Abingdon Press, 2000).You can find shorter presentations in print and DVD documentaries on Patrick of Ireland’s life; a thorough investigation via Google will bring a lot of information to light as well.

Let me quote a brief portion from Hunter’s book: “Patrick and his people launched a movement…most certainly he did not succeed in converting all the heathens of the island; but he won so many of them for Christ, he founded so many churches, ordained so many clerics, kindled such zeal in men’s hearts, that it seems right to believe that the wonderful out blossoming of Christianity that distinguished Ireland in the following ages was directly due to him.”

“Patrick was the first public man to speak and crusade against slavery…the Irish slave trade came to a halt, and other forms of violence, such as murder and intertribal warfare decreased…his Christian communities modeled the Christian way of faithfulness, generosity and peace to all the Irish.”

If you’re curious at all about what this may have to do with our children and families today, let me suggest that second to giving heed to the Bible, we do well to focus on the exciting stories of God’s heroes (an extension of Hebrews 11, if you will). These will help motivate the young growing up around us to develop character traits that will enable them also to do bold exploits for God.

In the next blog entry, I’ll give you suggestions for bringing Patrick of Ireland to the attention of your family members.  As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

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