A very long time ago, when Rome ruled most of Britain, a young man named Patricius lived on the coast of the island now called England. Pirates and thieves swarmed the choppy sea of the nearby narrow strait and roamed the coast of Roman Britain. They captured slaves and captives, looted towns and estates, and brought their spoils to the island across the channel – Ireland.
It was on the shores of Roman Britain that one day teenage Patricius (known in English as Patrick), was kidnapped and enslaved by those thieves and pirates along the coast. He was taken to Ireland. There he became a shepherd, tending flocks along and over the rolling green hills. In captivity, Patrick began to think about God and the Bible verses and stories that he had been taught as a child. The story of Jesus’ sacrifice began to mean more and more as the young man grew. His heart was filled with peace, where before he had been frightened and lonely, enslaved on a foreign island.
As he matured, Patricius began to share his faith with other captives, but they scoffed at his Christian ambitions. One night, Patricius had a dream that a messenger said, “You will soon be returning home!” When Patricius awoke, he left the camp where he slept and quietly walked down to the shore, where a ship was waiting to sail away. With some reluctance, the sailors let this strange boy accompany them on their voyage.
As soon as Patricius returned home, this family welcomed him with open arms. Back in Britain, he began to study God’s word with greater vigor. Before too long, he knew that he was meant to return to the pagan land where he had been mistreated. Again in a dream, Patricius was called back to the island where he had been enslaved. He felt the most eager pull to return and to teach the people of Ireland — to love them as God would.
Patricius’ family expressed hesitation at their son’s calling, but he knew what God wanted him to do. He knew it so vividly, so strongly, that he returned even though his family was afraid for his welfare.
Patricius went on to evangelize the people of Ireland for many years. He was not always welcomed, but eventually his love for the people, and God’s will, prevailed. The message of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection resonated with the pagan people. Patricius died on March 17, 461. We now celebrate that day as St. Patrick’s day. Through this young Briton, God changed the face of Ireland for His glory. Though many resisted the message, many more lives were changed because Patricius returned to the land of his captivity.
Sources include Patrick: God’s Courageous Captive, one of the books in the Courageous Series, available at vombooks.com.