Patrick's Early Life
Patrick was born in Roman-controlled Britain in about 390 AD. When he was a youth, Irish barbarians attacked his village and took him captive to Ireland, where he was sold as a slave shepherd to a pagan king.
As Patrick faced his first months of loneliness, hunger, illness and despair, he began seeking God. He later wrote:
“I would pray constantly during the daylight hours” and “the love of God… surrounded me more and more.”
After six tough years, Patrick says he had a life-changing dream. The message: “Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look – your ship is ready.” Patrick snubbed his fear of punishment, left his flock, and walked two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There, he found a ship and traveled back to Britain, where he joined a monastery and ultimately became a priest.
After two decades, Patrick couldn’t deny his heart for the Irish people and his calling to return to them. It was about 432 AD. At this point in history, Ireland was dominated by full-scale barbarism. Nonetheless, Patrick wrote:
“I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved – whatever may come my way.”
He had to return for the Irish people he loved.
Patrick planted his first church in a barn in Northern Ireland. He went on to spend the next 30 years of his life preaching the Gospel all around the treacherous island.
Patrick died on March 17, 461. Before his death, he wrote:
"Patrick the sinner, an unlearned man to be sure. None should ever say that it was my ignorance that accomplished any small thing, it was the gift of God."
In the end, Patrick is credited with baptizing 120,000 people and founding 300 churches in Ireland. The historian Thomas Cahill wrote:
“Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before.”
Because of Patrick, a “barbarian land lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery.”