says in His Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard the
law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your
enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:43-44) Who
can do such a thing?
Maewyn Succat was born in Britain in the late fourth century A.D. His father, Calphurnius, was a deacon from a Roman family of high social standing. His mother, Conchessa, was a close relative of the French soldier turned monk, turned bishop, Martin of Tours. Maewyn’s grandfather, Pontius, was also a member of the clergy. Surprisingly, however, Maewyn was not raised in a particularly religious home.
When he was 16 years old, Maewyn was captured by pirates of Hibernia (known today as Ireland). They sold him into slavery, and he was taken to western Scotland. His master, Milchu, was a Druid high priest. His job was to tend sheep.
During his six years of captivity, Maewyn found Christ in a powerful way. He became deeply devoted and prayed constantly. Once, in a vision, he saw the children of pagan Ireland (the home of his original pirate captors) reaching out their hands to him, and he grew increasingly determined to convert the Irish to Christian faith.
Around A.D. 408, Maewyn, now known as Patrick, had a dream. In it, a voice promised him he would find his way home to Britain. Eager to see the dream materialize, Patrick escaped and convinced some sailors to let him board their ship.
Returning to Britain a free man, Patrick then traveled to France, where he studied and entered the priesthood. He was ordained a deacon around A.D. 418.
Fourteen years later, Patrick was ordained as a bishop and Pope Celestine I sent him back to Ireland (as in his vision) to spread the gospel to non-believers and provide support to the small community of Christians already living there.
Initially, Patrick met great resistance, but over time, along with other missionaries, he managed to spread Christian teachings far and wide through preaching, writing and performing countless baptisms. Patrick died around A.D. 461 in Saul, Ireland.
Patrick loved his enemies so much that he wanted, even his persecutors, to be welcomed in the Kingdom of Heaven. He trusted God would protect him when he returned to pagan Ireland. He preached the truth of the gospel to any and all who would listen at great risk to his own personal safety, and God blessed him with great success. Eventually, Maewyn Succat became the patron Saint of Ireland. We still celebrate St. Patrick today. Literally, today.
I pray that, like Patrick, I can love so greatly that I would eagerly share the message of salvation in Jesus Christ with even those who mock me, persecute me, lie about me, and say all sorts of evil things against me. Who knows how many might come to know Jesus if I do?
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Dia linn! (That is Gaelic for “God bless you!”)
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