The Lesson of Saint Patrick

st-patricks-day prayer breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

The patron saint of Ireland, Patrick (c.385-461) is a well-known figure in Christian folklore. His two most famous contributions are the breastplate prayer (above) and teaching the doctrine of the Trinity using a shamrock. However, the life of Patrick can also teach us humility and submission to the will of God.

While still a teenager, Patrick was kidnapped from his wealthy home in Roman Britain by Irish pirates. Once in Ireland, he was sold as a slave and became a shepherd. Patrick didn’t take God or religion seriously until this six-year experience. After conversion, he learned to hear and obey God’s voice on the Irish hills. Patrick then escaped, returned home, and studied to become a priest in Europe. But he eventually went back to Ireland to preach salvation in Jesus Christ, turning the people “from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).[1]

Paul-DamascusHuman trafficking and long servitude in a foreign country seems to us like a rude, undeserved awakening. We may become bitter toward God, but Patrick didn’t. He wisely saw his experience as divine punishment, humbled himself before an omnipotent God, and repented of his sins. Patrick wasn’t the first to be so treated either. God transported Joseph from comfortable Canaan to slavery and prison in Egypt. He let Daniel, Ezekiel, and others be taken to Babylon. Through Daniel’s witness, God humbled King Nebuchadnezzar by letting him eat grass like an animal for seven years. He even awakened and humiliated Paul on the road to Damascus, in order to “show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).

“Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26)

The life lesson here is simple. God is God and he can do anything he wants, without our permission. That includes shipwrecking our bodies in order to save our souls. The salvation of the soul is the most vital occupation of this earthly life, since we cannot choose God after we die. He wants us to be holy, not happy. If God must seemingly ruin our lives in order to save us, then he will. The question is, will we let him? Will we humble ourselves, confess and repent of our sins, and throw ourselves on the mercy of Jesus Christ? Or will we proudly resist God and enter hell for eternity? The choice is ours. Let us, like Patrick, fall to our knees before God and submit to his will and authority.


[1] New King James Version (NKJV), unless otherwise noted


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