“Around the beginning of the fourth century the mighty Roman Empire began to crumble and fall, the lamp of civilization was about to go out and the long shadows of the approaching night of the Dark Ages began to appear. It was at that time that God raised up a small nation in the West, at the ends of the earth, to keep the torch burning and be a light to the nations. That island, far from Rome, was Ireland, and the man chosen by God to begin this glorious work was St. Patrick.
St. Patrick was born in the year 373, along the banks of the River Clyde in Roman Britain, now a part of the country called Scotland. He was descended from a family, which for two generations had publicly professed the Gospel. His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon, and his grandfather, Potitus, was a presbyter in the Christian Church. His father was an important official holding the rank of “decur,” a member of the council of magistry in a Romans provincial town. As a youth Patrick ignored spiritual instructions of his father and mother.
One day a little fleet of strange ships suddenly made their appearance in the Clyde. Patrick, with others was at play on the banks of the stream, and they remained watching the new arrivals, not suspecting the danger that lurked under their apparently innocent and peaceful movements. In an instant, Patrick was a captive and on his way to Ireland. He was a youth of 16 at that time.
The pirates who had borne him across the sea, had no sooner landed him on the Irish shore than they proceeded to put him up for auction on the slave block. Patrick was purchased by a chieftain and sent to herd his master’s cattle and swine on the mountains. Was ever a metamorphosis so complete or so sudden? Yesterday the cherished son of a Roman magistrate, today a slave and a swine herder. Pinched with hunger, covered with rags, soaked with the summer’s rain, bitten by the winter’s frost, or blinded by its snowdrifts, he is the very picture of the Prodigal son who was sent into the fields to keep swine. Like the proud King Nebuchadnezzar, he had to learn the hard way that the Most High rules. (See Daniel 4: 33-37).
After several years Patrick likewise lifted up his eyes to Heaven. He called on the name of the Lord, was born again into the kingdom of God, and indeed excellent majesty was added to his name. He was able to escape and found a ship which carried him back home. Discouraged by his parents and friends, he tried to ignore the plight of the Irish, but the Lord spoke to him by dreams for many years. One such dream he records:
In the dead of night I saw a man coming to me as if from Hiberio, whose name was Victoricus, bearing innumerable letters, He gave one of them to me to read, It was entitled, “The Voice of the Irish” (Vox Hibernicaeum.) As I read I thought I heard at the same moment the voice of those that dwell at the wood of Foclut, near the western ocean; and thus they cried, as with one mouth, “We beseech thee, holy youth, come and walk still among us.” I felt my heart greatly stirred in me, and could read no more, and so I awoke.
Patrick received his Divine Commission, not from the Seven Hills, but form the Mount of Olives. Attended by a few companions and humble men like himself, he crossed the sea and arrived in Ireland. He was now just 30 years of age. The story of St. Patrick is so much like the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. Both were sold into slavery as teenagers. Both were given special dreams and both began their ministry at about 30. Joseph fed Egypt with bread; Patrick fed Ireland with the living bread; both were a great blessing to the whole world!
(He arrived around AD 405.) All the medieval writers of his life, save the very earliest, and even his modern biographers, date his arrival in Ireland 27 years later, making it fall about 432. The reason for this is that Celestine, Bishop of Rome, sent a bishop named Palladius to Ireland about the year 431. The monkish biographers of Patrick had Palladius on their hands, and being careful of his honor, and his master in Rome, they adjusted the mission of Patrick so as to harmonize with the missions of Palladius. It was to the converts of Patrick that Palladius was sent to Bishop.
Patrick’s first sermon was preached in a barn! The use of this humble edifice was granted to him by the chief of the district, whom. The legend says, was his former master Milchu. In later years a church was built on the site where Patrick began his ministry and won his first converts to Christ. It was called Sabhal Padriuc, that is Patrick’s Barn. It faced north to south. It never dawned on Patrick that a church had to face east to west for the sacraments to be effective.
Excerpt from The Collegiate Baptist Workbook by James Beller, pg. 68-69