Lent with the Saints – Brave and Forgiving

Post Date: March 17, 2023
Author: Laura Stephens

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me”
– St. Patrick (Breastplate)

Green might be considered important and lucky today, but on this feast day of St. Patrick’s we reflect upon his bold faith, bravery in the face of danger, and genuine forgiveness.

St Patrick was born in Great Britain to a Christian family but he himself drifted from the faith.  As a teen, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates. Until 22 years of age, he was a slave, mostly working as a shepherd. The conditions were harsh; but, during that time, his fervent love for God grew in the long hours.

In a dream, he heard God telling him to escape and showing him the way. He was successful and made his way back to Britain. Once there he was reunited with his family. Within a few years, he had another vision that he describes as such:

“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea-and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.'” (Saint)

This vision led him with boldness to study for the priesthood. Despite opposition, he had the full intention of returning to Ireland to preach the good news. He was ordained a bishop and finally given permission to do mission work in Ireland.

“It was not any grace in me, but God who conquereth in me, and He resisted them all, so that I came to the heathen of Ireland to preach the Gospel and to bear insults from unbelievers, to hear the reproach of my going abroad and to endure many persecutions even unto bonds, the while that I was surrendering my liberty as a man of free condition for the profit of others. And if I should be found worthy, I am ready to give even my life for His name’s sake unfalteringly and gladly, and there (in Ireland) I desire to spend it until I die, if our Lord should grant it to me.” (St Patrick)

Upon arriving back in Ireland, he met with even greater resistance especially by the pagan druids for they did not want to hear of the one true God or have their power threatened. Over the years, they would imprison him and attempt to kill him, but God always protected Patrick and helped him to escape their attempts against him.

His brave dedication to the faith and bold preaching had a profound impression upon the Irish people. Over time, he converted many Irish chieftains who became his followers and supporters. He built churches and monasteries throughout Ireland to support the new converts.

“Yet hostility and violence still existed, for he writes later, “Daily I expect either a violent death, or robbery and a return to slavery, or some other calamity.” He adds, like the good Christian he was, “I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, for He rules everything.”” (St Patrick)

In the face of such opposition, St Patrick showed extreme bravery and dedication for spreading the faith. During the 40 years of mission work in Ireland, St. Patrick worked miracles and converted thousands of people to the Catholic faith in Ireland.

Often depicted with a shamrock, it reminds us of his unwavering devotion to teach about the Holy Trinity to the pagans of Ireland.  The shamrock is a wonderful visual for understanding one God in Three Divine Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

St. Patrick truly put his faith into action especially through the witness of his forgiveness upon the people who enslaved him earlier in his life. Rather than turning this extreme hardship and cruelty into anger and resentment, he used that experience to lead him to share Christ with the Irish people.  He wanted them to know the incredible love of God for them. What an example of forgiveness and using the particular circumstances of his life to serve God!

Instead of looking for Irish luck let us receive a traditional Gaelic blessing to send us on our journey today:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Irish Blessing)

For reflection and action:

  • Patrick used the years of slavery in Ireland to convert a whole nation. What hardships in your life is God asking you to use for His service?
  • Learn more about the life of St. Patrick. Watch this video or this other option to hear more about his life. Or listen to this fabulous audio telling of his story at https://www.saintsalivepodcast.com/episodes (Scroll down for St. Patrick and check out the other awesome saint stories they have there too!)
  • Pray the inspiring Patrick’s Breastplate. Though it is not known for sure if St. Patrick wrote it, this prayer beautifully conveys the bold trust of St. Patrick and how he depended on God for his safety and strength. May it bring you deeper trust in God’s plan and love for you!
  • Is there someone you need to forgive? Pray to St. Patrick to show you the peace and joy of forgiveness. Ask him to help you let go of the misery and resentment when we hold onto hurts and injustice.

St. Patrick, pray for us and for the whole world!

References:

Photo by Nheyob, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Breastplate quote retrieved from https://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/st-patricks-breastplate.html

Saint quote retrieved from https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89

St Patrick quote retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/saints/patrick-722

Irish Blessing quote retrieved from https://www.irishcentral.com/culture/may-the-road-rise-meet-you-irish-blessing-meaning

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