(41) So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord…*
How St. Patrick came to Ireland
Patrick, son of a deacon, was taken captive by pirates and brought to Ireland when he was about sixteen years old.
At that time, he did not know the true God. But it was during this time of hardship that the Lord opened Patrick’s heart and mind.
(2) He watched over me before I knew him… and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son. … (3) So many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity.*
Escape from Ireland
He knew beforehand that he would soon be able to go back to his home country and that his ship was ready. After six years in slavery, by the power of God, he managed to escape. The men on the ship were barbarians, though, and denied him access. Patrick left and began to pray. His prayer was not finished yet when they were calling him back to the ship out of good faith. He had hopes that the crew would come to faith in Jesus Christ.
The voyage was rough. After nearly a month they ran out of food and were hungry. The steersman questioned Patrick’s faith in God and worried that they would soon perish. But Patrick answered:
(19) Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him so that today he will send food for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he abounds.*
And so it was! After they were filled and restored they gave thanks to God.
The Voice of the Irish – How Saint Patrick came back to Ireland
(61) … I never had any reason, except the Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had previously escaped with difficulty.*
Back in Britain, after a few years, in a vision of the night, he saw a man called Victoricus who brought him letters from the Irish who …
(23) … were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’
People Of the Lord
So, how is it then that the Irish became people of the Lord and that thousands were baptized?
Patrick knew that it was not because of him…
37 … not by my own grace but by God who is victorious in me and withstands them all, so that I might come to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure insults from unbelievers…*
He knew God’s Word well.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)
Saint Patrick did not want credit for the conversion of the Irish. Rather, he wanted to make sure that people knew it to be the gift of God and closed his confession with these words:
(62) But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die.*
More translations of Saint Patrick’s Confessio are found here (available in its original Latin version and other languages)
The Life and Legacy of Saint Patrick is a lovely 160-page-reader for 12-16 year olds by Michael McHugh, Great Light Publications (ebook/pdf available at Christian Liberty Press)