The Power of Forgiveness in the Story of St. Patrick

March 18, 2020 | 0 comments

Posted in: Thoughts and Reflections

Cassie, Ron. “St. Patrick: The Real Story Tops the Myth.” Baltimore Magazine: March 16, 2017

The story of St. Patrick begins with a young man named, Maewyn Succat, born not in Ireland, but in Northern Britain. When Maewyn was 16 years old, his home was invaded by Irish marauders, and he was captured, taken across the Irish Sea, and sold into slavery to a Druid chieftain. For six years, Maewyn remained in bondage to his Druid master.

It was in slavery that Maewyn converted to Christianity, through the witness of his fellow slaves. He changed his name to Patricius, or Patrick, as a mark of his conversion. In the sixth year of his bondage, Patrick had a dream in which he heard a voice telling him to flee Ireland. He ran from his master's land, stowed away on a ship, and made his way back to England.

Once in England, Patrick joined a monastery. For twelve years, he studied his Christian faith and engaged in daily prayer, finding in that faith, love for his former captors. He vowed to return to Ireland one day to convert the Druids to Christianity and to abolish the slavery and human sacrifice that he had seen while there.

In AD 433, Patrick did just that. Against the wishes of his family, he returned to Ireland and began the slow work of baptizing the Irish pagans, ordaining priests, and building churches and monasteries. This work would last him the final thirty years of his life.

Amazingly, two of Patrick's writings survive: “Confessio,” a short, autobiographical account of his life, and “Letter to Coroticus,” in which Patrick chastised a marauding king for his soldiers’ brutality.

Perhaps not surprisingly given his own experience, Patrick became one of the earliest proponents of abolition in western civilization. In “Confessio,” he wrote that he was “humbled every day by hunger and nakedness” as he tended cattle in the Irish wilderness. In particular, Patrick condemned the treatment of female slaves in Ireland, noting the slave women’s bravery and resilience in the face of their daily persecutions.

The people of Ireland listened and responded. By Patrick’s death on March 17, 461, the Irish had ended their slave trade for good. The story of St. Patrick reminds us of what the forgiveness and love of a single man can do through the power of the Spirit!

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