Today is Saint Patrick’s Day

Oh I know today is not really Saint Patrick’s day but indulge me for a wee bit and you will see why I say today really is Saint Patrick’s day.

Patrick was one of Christianity’s first outspoken opponents of slavery. 1

Patrick lived after Christianity became mainstream in the Roman Empire. He was born sometime around AD 386 in Britain and died around 460 in Ireland.2 His grandfather was a priest, and his father was a Roman official who was also a deacon in the Roman church. Patrick left two documents: his Confession and Letter to Coroticus.

Patrick’s Letter to Coroticus described converts taken into slavery, with the sign of the cross still fresh on their foreheads. Patrick pleaded for their safe return. He begged Britain’s Christian leadership for help, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Patrick’s decision to identify himself with the Irish, a culture outside of Roman Christianity, diminished his ability to influence the church in Britain.3

Patrick was especially concerned about how Christian women suffered in slavery. Cahill quotes Patrick as saying:

“But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most — and who keep their spirits up despite the menacing and terrorizing they must endure. The Lord gives grace to his handmaids; and though they are forbidden to do so, they follow him with backbone.” 4

His outcries against slavery were eventually successful. During Patrick’s lifetime (or shortly after), the slave trade in Ireland stopped.

Human trafficking is today’s equivalent to slavery. Women and children are held against their will and forced to work for their masters. Some sources suggest that 100,000 minors suffer as sex-slaves within the U.S. borders alone, and even more shocking, 100 million people in India are sex-slaves. Of India’s prostitute population, 40% are children. 5

St. Patrick’s Letter pleaded for such as these:

“Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly, grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have, been sold, Christians made slaves, and that, too, in the service of the abominable, wicked, and apostate [unbelievers].” 6


Today’s Saint Patrick are people who (a) love God deeply and are able to discern His calling, (b) are able to teach deep truths by illustrations from common experience, (c) prove their faith through a genuine love for people, advocating the cause of those who cannot defend themselves; often this advocacy is motivated by personal experience, and (d) have a deep and personal prayer life.

Patrick’s life was full of obstacles for those who would want to become leaders in a local church much like today: he lacked education and experienced a terrifying adolescence. Those experiences prepared him to be able to reach out to those who are also outcast by the established church. Patrick’s lack of formal education made him a practical theologian, but a theologian none-the-less. Imagine if God only used the seminary trained to reach the lost? Perhaps that is why the populations of the lost continues to grow rapidly while the population of the church continues to decline?

Today is Saint Patrick’s day, a day for all those who have dedicated their lives to God, who may be overlooked by the church, and perhaps considered by some to be uneducated, to arise and go forth like Saint Patrick of Ireland. There is still much work to be done in the world. Make today and everyday Saint Patrick’s day.

Just a view from the nest

But those who are waiting for the Lord will have new strength; they will get wings like eagles: running, they will not be tired, and walking, they will have no weariness. Isaiah 40:31Open Link in New Window (BBE)

Along for the journey

1 Dates taken from the Dictionary of Christian Biography. Ed. Michael Walsh. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2001.

2 As claimed by Thomas Cahill, and evidenced in both Patrick’s Confession and Letter to Coroticus. Also mentioned in Jonathan Hills What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us? How It Shaped the Modern World. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

3 Both his identification with the Irish and a sin he confessed before entering the priesthood hindered his influence with the British. His confessed sin somehow become a scandal among church leadership, and prompted him to write his Confession.

4 From Patrick’s Confession, and quoted in Cahill, 109.

6 “Letter to Coroticus.”

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