Technically, Saint Patrick is not even a saint, as he was never canonized by the
Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, Patrick was not even Irish. Rather, he was
a Roman-Britain who spoke Latin and a bit of Welsh.
Patrick was born
around 390 A.D. When he was roughly 16 years of age he was captured by pirates
and taken to Ireland on a ship where he was sold into slavery. He spent the next
six years alone in the wilderness as a shepherd for his masters’ cattle and
In relating to St. Patrick, Driscoll, deals with the topics of
- God Speaks to Patrick
The Roman Catholic Church had given up on converting such “barbarians” deemed beyond hope. The Celtic peoples, of which the Irish were part, were an illiterate bunch of drunken, fighting, perverted pagans who basically had sex
with anyone and worshiped anything. They were such a violent and lawless
people, numbering anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000, that they had no city
centers or national government and were spread out among some 150 warring clans. Their enemies were terrified of them because they were known to show up for battles and partake in wild orgies before running into battle naked and drunk while screaming as if they were demon-possessed. One clan was so debased that it was customary for each of their new kings to copulate with a white mare as part of his inauguration.
- Unique Missionary Strategy
In faith, the forty-something year-old Patrick sold all of his possessions,
including the land he had inherited from his father, to fund his missionary
journey to Ireland. He worked as an itinerant preacher and paid large sums of
money to various tribal chiefs to ensure he could travel safely through their
lands and preach the gospel. His strategy was completely unique, and he
functioned like a missionary trying to relate to the Irish people and
communicate the gospel in their culture by using such things as three-leaf
clovers to explain the gospel. Upon entering a pagan clan, Patrick would seek to first convert the tribal leaders and other people of influence. He would then
pray for the sick, cast demons out of the possessed, preach the Bible, and use
both musical and visual arts to compel people to put their faith in Jesus. If
enough converts were present he would build a simple church that did not
resemble ornate Roman architecture, baptize the converts, and hand over the
church to a convert he had trained to be the pastor so that he could move on to
repeat the process with another clan.
Patrick gave his life to the people who had enslaved him until he died at 77 years of age. He had seen untold thousands of people convert as between 30-40 of the 150 tribes had become substantially Christian. He had trained 1000 pastors, planted 700 churches, and was the first noted person in history to take a strong public stand against
- Roman Opposition
For Further Study:
•At www.ccel.org there is a free copy available of Patrick’s book Confessions.
•Steve Rabey’s book In the House of Memory is a good introduction to Patrick and Celtic Christianity.
•Thomas Cahill’s book How the Irish Saved Civilization is a fascinating historical look at Patrick and the implications of Celtic Christianity on western history.
•www.ChristianityToday.com/history is the site for Christian History and Biography magazine, which is a wonderful resource that includes an entire issue on Patrick and Celtic Christianity.