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Patrick of Ireland

At the onset, some may wonder how one can view Patrick of Ireland’s history as providential. After all, he was kidnapped. And some may ask, why didn’t God prevent Patrick from being taken by the Irish raiders? Let’s address these matters. 

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Medieval Era History on the Liberty History Timeline

Providential History: The Gospel Spreading Westward

Patrick of Ireland’s Birth and Family Life

Patrick was born c. 390 A.D. in the Roman Province of Britannia (now Britain). Therefore, he wasn’t ethnically Irish, however he became nationally Irish when he moved to live there. He was born at the end of the Roman rule in Britannia (Britain).

His Name Change

His birth name is Maewyn Succat. However, after Maewyn Succat became a priest, he adopted the name Patrick (from Patricius which relates to the Latin root for “father”).

His Family

Potitus was his grandfather. He was a clergy and he was a from Bonaven Tabernia.

His father was Calponius and he was a senator, a tax collector, and a deacon. Therefore, they belonged to the Romano-British upper class. Additionally, his father would disciple their neighbors in the Christian faith. His mother was Conchessa. It’s believed that he had two brothers and six sisters.

Being converted to Christ, his parents faithfully discipled Patrick, however he didn’t convert to Christ until the age of sixteen. Leading up to his conversion, his heart was a like a garden with poor soil. His parents were faithful to till the soil of his heart with God’s Word—sewing seeds of truth, amending it with layers of prayers, patience, trust in God, and their life’s examples. As they did that, the Holy Spirit was busy at work with watering those seeds.

Here we see God’s care and provision for Patrick on an individual basis—being introduced to God in his childhood through his parents. Even though he ignored God’s Word, those seeds were planted and waiting to germinate.

The Historical Context of Patrick’s Life in Brief

The setting is providential for how God wanted to move His Gospel forward in history despite sinful man!

Patrick had come from Banavem to Berniae. However, historians haven’t been able to pinpoint where exactly the geographical location of Berniae was. But, they do believe it was likely along the west coast of Britain.

At this time in history, the Roman Empire stretched over most of Europe and some parts of Africa and Asia. and Britannia was a province of Rome. Ireland, however, was one of the few areas of Europe where Roman soldiers weren’t stationed. It was over the course of about three hundred years that the Roman Empire controlled much of ancient Britain.

In Ireland the Celts were fierce, superstitious, and the clans were ruled by chieftains (Sea Kings). It was common practice for the Sea Kings to have solid, large wooden boats travel across the sea to Britain. Once they landed upon the shores of Britain the Celts would raid farms. Needless to say, the people were terrified and they couldn’t count on the Roman soldiers to defend them. The Roman Emperor Honorius ordered the soldiers to stay out of fights with the brutal Celts in battle. Therefore, the Celts were unhindered from pillaging the farms. As a result, they loaded the boats with livestock and sometimes they would capture individuals and enslave them.

As mentioned earlier, Patrick was born at the end of the Roman rule in Britannia (Britain). During the end of Rome’s rule over Britannia, the Emperor Honorius was pulling his legions from Britain to help defend the Roman cities which were being attacked by enemy forces (barbarians) that were closer to his location.

It’s around that time that Chieftain Nial and his clan traveled across the sea to the west coast of Britain and kidnapped Patrick. (If one doesn’t comprehend providence, one will not see how not just the location was providential, but also how God used the kidnapping of Patrick to bring him to Salvation through Christ alone and work all things together for good.)

Irish Captivity and Patrick’s Conversion

Chieftain Nial and the Celts raided farms—one of which belonged to Patrick’s parents, with its open fields and wooded area. One of Patrick’s responsibilities was to shepherd his father’s sheep. Perhaps that is the reason why he was placed as a slave-shepherd over a herd of sheep in Ireland.

Patrick of Ireland saw how the circumstances he was permitted to experiences were providential. In his The Confession of St. Patrick he documents God’s hand in history and how He used those events to reach him.

Instead of growing bitter about his circumstances, he drew near to God:

“After I arrived in Ireland, I tended sheep every day, and I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God. Faith grew, and my spirit was moved, so that in one day I would pray up to one hundred times, and at night perhaps the same. I even remained in the woods and on the mountain, and I would rise to pray before dawn in snow and ice and rain. I never felt the worse for it, and I never felt lazy – as I realise now, the spirit was burning in me at that time.”

And, “My defence was that I remained on in Ireland, and that not of my own choosing, until I almost perished. However, it was very good for me, since God straightened me out, and he prepared me for what I would be today. I was far different then from what I am now, and I have care for others, and I have enough to do to save them. In those days I did not even have concern for my own welfare.”

-The Confession of St. Patrick

We learn throughout Scripture and history that sometimes God protects people from physical danger and that sometimes He doesn’t. Also, we learn that He is constantly working in the individual and that individuals have a response to give Him. He’s always working inside the individual because individuals are loved (John 3:16, 17) and He is patient with individuals because He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Patrick was kidnapped, he was enslaved, and he wasn’t treated well. Eventually God worked things out for him to make an escape and return home. There, he went to seminary and became a bishop. That choice helped further equip him to be a missionary to Ireland.

Patrick the Missionary

Patrick chose to go back to Ireland as a missionary:

“I am greatly in debt to God. He gave me such great grace, that through me, many people should be born again in God and brought to full life. Also that clerics should be ordained everywhere for this people who have lately come to believe, and who the Lord has taken from the ends of the earth. This is just what he promised in the past through his prophet: “The nations will come to you from the ends of the earth, and they will say: How false are the idols our fathers got for themselves, and they are of no use whatever.” And again: “I have put you as a light to the nations, that you may be their salvation to the end of the earth.”

-The Confession of St. Patrick

Backdrop to Patrick’s Arrival in Ireland as a Missionary

Prior to the Gospel reaching the ancient Celts, they were a brutal people. Around 100 A.D., however, the Galatian believers witnessed to them and the culture began to change one individual at a time. Pastor Paul Jehele touches on that and Patrick of Ireland’s role of spreading the Gospel westward in his sermon on Providential History from Christ to the Reformation.

When Patrick willfully arrived back in Ireland under different circumstances, he learned that there were already several churches (kirks) sprinkled amongst the landscape.

Patrick’s Contributions on the Liberty History Timeline

  • Patrick spread the Gospel in Ireland and discipled the new believers.
  • An Irish king converted to Christ because of Patrick sharing the Gospel.
  • Additionally, he wrote Liberty from the Law of Moses (published in 432 A.D.)—the first codified laws written for the Celts which is built on the Ten Commandments.

Ireland is a Nation Transformed

Here, we observe the cause to effect of Patrick’s obedience to Holy God about being a missionary to Ireland. He helped disciple a culture.

Were there still pagans in Ireland? Of course there were because not every individual responds to Christ, accepting salvation. However, many did convert to Christ.

As Bible-based laws were put into place, the culture had a standard to live by that was Biblical.

Recommended Patrick of Ireland Resources

Animated Film: The St. Patrick Story on YouTube by The Torchlighters

Article: Patrick of Ireland Part One by Dr. Marshall Foster of World History Institute

Article: Patrick of Ireland Part Two by Dr. Marshall Foster of World History Institute

Article: The Mission of Patrick: The Fullness of the Gospel by Dr. Marshall Foster of World History Institute

Article: Patrick Transforms a Nation by Providence Foundation

Article: St. Patrick and the Times He Lived In by American Minutes

Book: Saint Patrick, Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael J. McHugh (story form)

Book: Patrick of Ireland, His Life and Impact by Michael A.G. Haykin (scholarly form)

Documentary: I Am Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland by CBN Films (<<< not an affiliate link).

Documentary: Who Was St. Patrick and the History Behind St. Patrick’s Day by Drive Thru History with David Stotts

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