St. Patrick: A Son of Issachar for the 5th Century (Part 2)
St. Patrick’s Service
Patrick spent about thirty years evangelizing the people of Ireland. Throughout his ministry, he faced tremendous opposition, particularly from pagan Druid priests. He wrote,
Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, or whatever it may be; but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty…
Despite intense trials, Patrick persevered, baptizing over 120,000 converts and planting more than 300 churches. He also crusaded against grave social ills such as child sacrifice and human slavery. He was perhaps the world’s first abolitionist. He was certainly the first to speak out so emphatically and unequivocally against slavery. He wrote a letter to a British chieftain, Coroticus, excommunicating him for enslaving thousands of Patrick’s converts. By the end of his lifetime, or perhaps shortly thereafter, the slave trade in Ireland was no more.
St. Patrick’s Warrior Children
Patrick so deeply imprinted his missionary vision on Ireland that Celtic missionaries evangelized much of Europe during the next few centuries known as the Dark Ages. It was a time of great crisis and upheaval for Western Civilization. Wave after wave of barbarian tribes were sweeping across Europe. The Roman Empire fell. It was doubtful whether civilization itself would survive.
Into the breach marched Patrick’s spiritual descendants. They kept the light of the gospel and the light of learning alive in this period of chaos and turmoil. Irish monks preserved both Christian and classical literature, writing more than half of the Biblical commentaries we have dating from 650-850 AD.
One of the most noteworthy of these Irish torchbearers was Columba, the great missionary to Scotland and England. He founded the famous monastery on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. From this missionary training center, Irish missionaries fanned out all over Europe to share the Gospel with the pagan tribes that had run roughshod over Western Europe. One such missionary, Columbanus (543-615 AD) evangelized the Franks and the Germans, founding as many as 100 monasteries throughout France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.
St. Patrick’s Impact
Just as importantly, the influence of Patrick’s spiritual descendants very likely strengthened the West to withstand the militant Islamic assault against Europe in the 8th century. In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that it was the Irish who saved Western Civilization, when the lights of the Roman Empire had gone out all over Europe.
So what was Patrick’s legacy? By the time of his death around 461 AD, Ireland had largely abandoned its pagan roots and become a Christian nation. A whole culture had been transformed in less than a generation, primarily through the efforts of one son of Issachar for the 5th century…a man who understood the times, knew His God, and knew what to do. While the Roman Empire was disintegrating in Europe, the kingdom of God was advancing in Ireland. By the grace of God manifested through one man, and later his spiritual descendants, not only was a nation changed, but a continent was blessed for centuries to come.
That is SOI 21’s hope for America…that in the decades before us, America would be transformed, and that like Ireland, she too would be a blessing to continents and peoples for generations to come. The design of the SOI 21 web site hearkens back to this era of rapid transformation in Ireland and the resulting influence of Celtic Christianity. May the Lord do in 21st century America what He did in 5th century Ireland…for His glory and the advance of His kingdom!
Would that God would raise up from among the “Millennial Generation” (Americans born from 1982-2002) multitudes of “Patricks,” sons and daughters of Issachar who are ready and willing to give their lives for the passion of God’s heart in the 21st century.
Will you be one of them?
Cagney, Mary. “Patrick the Saint,” Christian History. (Carol Stream, IL:Issue 60, volume XVII, No. 4).
Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization – The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. (Doubleday, 1995).
Christian History Institute. Glimpses #75 and # 195. (http://www.chi.gospelcom.net).
Federer, William. Saint Patrick (Amerisearch Inc., 2002).