God Wants More For You. So Do We.

Who Was St. Patrick?

Ask Pastor Alex, Ep. 8

This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host, Pastor Alex.
All right, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the podcast. We’re here with another
episode and another question. And when this episode releases, it will be St. Patrick’s
Day. So, happy St. Patrick’s Day! And that brings us to our question for the episode,
which is, who was St. Patrick? And this is a really fun, interesting question because
I think most people know about St. Patrick’s Day, or at least they know how we celebrate
it and when we celebrate it here in the United States. But you might not be as familiar with
who Patrick actually was. And so, maybe some interesting facts just to start off with.
Like, for instance, his name wasn’t actually Patrick. He was given the name Patrick at
his ordination, but his birth name was a Celtic name. His name was Maywin Sukat. And another
interesting fact is he wasn’t actually Irish. He was British. He grew up in British territories
and specifically in Britain. And so, he was British, not Irish. He was born in the year
AD 387 and he died in 461. And we’re going to refer to him as Patrick throughout the
episode because that’s how everybody knows him. So, Patrick actually did come from a
pretty religious family, but it does seem, based on historical records, that the religion
of his family was more of a cultural type thing, more of like what we would call nominal
Christianity today, rather than a true commitment to Christ. And so, some interesting things
happen during Patrick’s early years. So, when he was a teenager, some pirates came.
Yes, I said pirates. Some Celtic pirates from Ireland came and they invaded his hometown
and they were ransacking and pillaging and capturing people. And while Patrick’s family
was able to escape, he was not. And so, Patrick was actually kidnapped as a teenager by these
pirates and taken away. He was then sold as a slave. And during his enslavement, he was
almost always isolated and alone. And one of the main responsibilities he had as a slave
was serving as a shepherd, which meant that he was in total isolation at that point. So,
what do you do when you’re enslaved and you’re suffering from like freezing cold temperatures
and isolation and hunger? Well, Patrick, he prayed. And he prayed hundreds and hundreds
of times a day, almost keeping in constant communion with God in prayer on a daily basis.
And we even have a quote from Patrick that he wrote as a reflection on this time in his
life. And this is what he said. He said, The Lord opened up my awareness of my lack of
faith. Even though it came about late, I recognized my failings. So I turned with all my heart
to the Lord my God. And he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful
ignorance. He guarded me before I knew him and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish
between good and evil. He protected me and consoled me as a father does for his son.
And so God used this time in Patrick’s life to teach him to be content with God alone.
To teach him that even if he was alone and isolated and no matter what he was going through,
no matter how hard it was, that the presence of the Lord was with him and the Lord was
teaching him to be content with his presence alone. And so what happened is six years after
he was initially enslaved, Patrick escaped and was able to board a ship and return back
home. And now if you’re Patrick, you might be thinking, okay, I was enslaved. I managed
to escape. I’m back home. I’m content to stay here forever. And he might have done that,
except he began to have visions. One night as he was beginning to fall asleep, Patrick
had a vision. And in the vision, he saw an Irishman holding up countless letters and
one of them was titled, The Voice of the Irish. And as Patrick saw these words, he heard the
cries of countless people. And it was actually the cries of the Irish people begging him
to come back and walk among them again. Now, again, naturally, if you are Patrick, you’re
torn at this point, right? Because you are now a Christian, you want to be faithful to
the Lord and what he’s calling you to do, but you associate Ireland with pain and torture
and enslavement and isolation. He really did not want to go back there because he had such
bad memories from being there. And so he just put off the vision initially and decided not
to do anything, but the Lord was persistent. And so Patrick kept having vision after vision
after vision, and it was the same one over and over and over and over again until finally
Patrick responded and said, If this is from you, Lord, I’m willing to go. But interestingly,
his return was not immediate. He didn’t immediately decide to go back to Ireland. Most historians
believe that Patrick spent the next two decades, 20 years preparing for that return. And during
that time, he was undergoing much theological, ecclesiastical and spiritual training so that
when he did finally return to Ireland, he would be equipped to be able to reach the
Irish people like he wanted to do. And this is really encouraging. So here’s what happened
after that 20 year period took place. Patrick was 48 years old, and he was ordained into
the priesthood. And he was officially commissioned and sent out as one of the very first church
planters to go and reach and unreach people group. He was supposed to go and reach the
Celtic people of Ireland. So I just want you to think about that for a second how encouraging
that is, because it means that Patrick, who is known today, almost everybody if you say
St. Patrick, almost everybody knows a little bit about St. Patrick. They definitely know
about St. Patrick’s Day. Patrick was 48 years old when he finally went back to Ireland.
So I want that to be an encouragement to you who might be tempted to think that you’re
too old to do something great for God. That is never the case. If you are still alive
today, God can use you to do great things in this world. You might be thinking that
your prime is behind you and God might have something great in front of you. So Patrick
was 48 years old when he was ordained, given the name Patrick and sent out to go reach
the Celtic people of Ireland. And we can learn a lot about his methods when he returned
too. Because at the time, the Celtic people of Ireland, they were barbarians and they
were a rough group of people. They had a very pagan type culture. But Patrick never dismissed
the Celtic culture. Rather, he engaged it. He connected with the people. He spent time
with the people to get to know them and find out their needs so that he could then show
them how God could actually meet their needs. And that’s not to say that his mission was
always easy either, right? Because if you look, Patrick himself even records that from
the moment of his arrival, he was almost continually placed in life and death situations. Again,
the Celtic people were barbarians at this time and they were constantly threatening
to torture him and kill him. But Patrick continued to trust God. He continued to identify with
the Irish people and use their cultural and religious understandings to lead into conversations
about the one true God and minister to them in love and in patience. And what ended up
happening is God blessed Patrick’s ministry greatly. There ended up being mass conversion
in Ireland. And because of Patrick’s specific approach of engaging with the people, getting
to know the people, embracing their culture, using it to lead into gospel conversations,
using their culture to point out their need for God, his method of loving people and being
patient with them, an interesting fact is to this day, Ireland is still the only country
that has ever experienced mass conversion to Christianity without any bloodshed. Patrick
modeled love and then was able to tell people about the source of that love. And so when
you think about St. Patrick’s Day today, it’s a shame that people today, St. Patrick’s
Day is celebrated by wearing green, hanging shamrocks everywhere, pinching people. For
many people, it’s a drinking holiday. When in reality, St. Patrick’s Day should be a
day where Christians celebrate the mass conversion that took place in Ireland by God working
through a humble, willing servant like Patrick. And so today, if you are a Christian and you’re
listening to this, take time to celebrate God’s work in the life of Patrick. Take time
to thank God for the mass conversion that took place in Ireland. Take time to thank
God for using ordinary, everyday people, even people with a troubled past like Patrick to
accomplish great things. And then begin to look at your own life in ministry and take
time to consider the ministry of Patrick and seek to imitate his ministry. When you’re
thinking about how you can engage with the world and the culture around you, think about
what Patrick did. Embrace people where they’re at. Meet them where they are. Use the culture
to lead into gospel conversations. Be patient with people. Love people. And trust God always.
When we wonder who is St. Patrick, that’s who he is. He was a man who was saved by the
grace of God in Christ Jesus, who was convicted and called by God to go and reach the people
that he associated with pain and torture and enslavement. And he brought the gospel to
them. And by God’s grace, there was mass conversion. Really enjoy that question. I hope
that you’ve learned a lot about Patrick. Take time today to praise the Lord, for he
is worthy. Appreciate the question. Look forward to answering more in the future.