It’s that time of year again when people all over the world are remembering the patron saint of Ireland. It always reminds me of the place of my birth and upbringing in County Antrim. This is the same county where St. Patrick tended sheep, and where he developed a close relationship with God and felt the “call” to bring the gospel to pagan Ireland.
Slemish Mountain, Co Antrim
St. Patrick was born in Britain around 385 AD. When he was 16 years old, he was captured by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. There, his job was to tend sheep, which he did on Slemish mountain, which is close to where I was brought up in County Antrim.
During his six years of captivity, he became deeply devoted to Christianity through constant prayer, and he came to view his enslavement as God’s test of his faith. In a vision, he saw the children of Pagan Ireland reaching out their hands to him. With this, he grew increasingly determined to convert them to Christianity.
Circa 408 AD, the idea of escaping enslavement came to St. Patrick in a dream. In the dream, a voice promised him he would find his way home to England. Eager to see the dream materialise, he convinced some sailors to let him board their ship. Eventually, St. Patrick was reunited with his family in England. As time passed, however, he never lost sight of his vision: to convert Ireland to Christianity.
Around 431 AD, he returned to Ireland to spread the message of Christianity to the Pagans there.
Upon his arrival in Ireland, St. Patrick was initially met with hostile resistance. But through preaching, writing and performing countless baptisms, he eventually convinced Pagan Druids that they were worshiping idols under a belief system that kept them enslaved. By accepting Christianity, he told them, they would be elevated to “the people of the Lord and the sons of God.”
The reputed burial place of St Patrick at Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, Northern Ireland