Daily Devotionals: (March 4th): Free-born Patrick

by Aaron Dunlop

Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History

Reading: “And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.” Acts 22:28

Most people would be surprised to learn that Patrick was not Irish! Where he was originally from is still debated, but it was not Ireland. He says his family “belonged to the town of Bannavem Taburniae, [his father] had a small estate nearby, and it was there that [he] was taken captive” (Confession, sec. 1). But where Bannavem Taburniae was is unknown. The list of possibilities range from northern France, northeastern Spain, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The only safe conclusion is to say that he was a Roman citizen, and, like the apostle Paul, he was free-born.

We learn of Patrick’s godly heritage as he describes his father: “My father the deacon Calpornius, son of the late Potitus, a priest” (Confession, sec. 1). The word priest was used in the early church as a synonym for presbyter; it does not refer to a sacrificing priest. But Patrick’s father was also a man in authority. Patrick tells the soldiers of Coroticus, “My father was a Decurion” (Letter, sec. 10), the head of a company of ten men in ancient Rome. Patrick writes, I was free-born according to the flesh” (Letter, sec. 10).

The chief captain in Acts 22:28 bought his Roman freedom “with a great sum,” but Patrick, like Moses, “esteem[ed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26). He continues in his letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, that despite being free-born, “I sold my good birth (not that I am ashamed or regret it) in the interest of others. In short, I am a slave in Christ to a foreign people for the ineffable glory of the everlasting life which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Letter, sec. 10). In a selfish and materialistic world this example of self-sacrifice is shocking. Lord, help me to esteem the reproach of Christ greater than riches and give me this same spirit of self-sacrifice in the interest of others and for the glory of God!

“We may be losers for Him, we shall never be losers by Him.”—Thomas Watson

All quotations from the Confession or Letter of Patrick are taken from the edition by A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

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