Who Was St. Patrick?
Patrick was raised in a nominally Christian home in Britain during the collapse of the Roman Empire. At 16 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to the west coast of Ireland. The trauma of slavery turned him to the Lord, and he strove to spend each day in communion with God. Six years later he escaped and returned to Britain. After a time of theological study, Patrick felt the Lord's call to return to Ireland as a missionary to his captors.
Despite strong opposition from both the Irish and his Christian contemporaries back home, Patrick speaks of “thousands” converted through his ministry, including sons and daughters of Irish kings, from the worship of “idols and filthy things.” This success came from Patrick's deep understanding of what Scripture teaches regarding missions and a steadfast dedication to his work.
Patrick's work firmly planted the Christian faith in Irish soil and left a deep imprint on the Celtic church that would grow up from this soil. The central place that the Bible held in his thinking helped initiate an impetus among the Irish toward literacy. In fact, this impetus was so strong that by the seventh century the Irish had become major participants in “bibliocentric literacy,” a key aspect of Roman Christianity in late antiquity. Throughout the sixth and seventh centuries, Celtic Christians evangelized the British Isles, Gaul, and central Europe with a passion that matched that of Patrick, the father of the Irish church.
"In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord—so many thousands of people." —Patrick
This article was adapted from Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church by Michael A. G. Haykin.