Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History
The life of Patrick as it is generally perceived is glamorized and romanticized beyond recognition. The Roman Catholic Church across the world has constructed around him a halo of miracles. Stained glass windows portray Patrick with his crosier, mitre, and robes, which they say he left with St. Fiacc before he died. Fiacc (415-520) was one of the earliest bards to write about Patrick, and he is regarded as a primary source for the life of Patrick.
It was with Fiacc that much of the romance began—he wrote in his poem that Patrick worked miracles, “healed the lame and the lepers; the dead he restored to life.” It is Fiacc also that says Patrick’s first name was Succat and that he crossed the Alps to Germanus where he was taught. The Church of Rome has picked up where Fiacc left off and has idealized Patrick’s life.
But Patrick’s life was anything but ideal. Like his contemporary Augustine, Patrick knew that “trials come to prove and improve us.” His Confession presents a life therefore that is very real and very human, a life of struggling against personal sin and affliction, against slavery, against hardships and the pain of being betrayed by his close friend, a life that proved the strength of his character and of his faith. Patrick states that his work for God was done through many years of hardships and that “after such trials and hardships, after captivity and a long period of years, [the Lord] give me such grace in regard to that people—something which I never hoped for nor imagined in the days of my youth” (Confession, sec. 15).
Patrick was saved in suffering and he served in suffering. Glamour and worldly idealism is for this world. It pleased God to work our sanctification through suffering, even as it was through suffering that Christ worked our salvation. Let us rejoice in tribulation as Paul did and endure for the sake of the Christ and His gospel knowing that “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).
“When God gives a promise, He always tries our faith. Just as the roots of trees take firmer hold when they are contending with the wind, so faith takes a firmer hold when it struggles with adverse appearances.”—Robert Murray McCheyne