The Catholic Defender: St. Patrick
Growing up in mid-America in the 1960's what I remember most about St. Patrick was when March 17 rolled on around, you better wear green or you will spend the day getting pinched. So green became a standard for St. Patrick's Day.
As a young person, the St. Patrick's Day parade was always in the news which was televised and a major thing to watch as the bands and floats gave that Irish flavor.
None of this really is about St. Patrick, but this is what many people identify St. Patrick with. St. Patrick (Maewyn Succat) was born in modern day England (386 A.D.) to a Deacon of the Catholic Church, Calphurnius was a rich merchant. St. Patrick's mother, Conchessa, was a relative of St. Martin of Tours. His Grandfather was also a Deacon who served the Church with great devotion.
Like many children today, St. Patrick was raised in a good Christian home, but he was not particularly strong on his faith. I can relate with St. Patrick on this as well. Later St. Patrick would write, "I blush and fear exceedingly to reveal my lack of education." His book "Confession".
By the time St. Patrick became a young to middle teenager (14-16) he was kidnapped by pirates who sold him into slavery in Ireland.
St. Patrick was taken to modern day Dalriada as a slave tending sheep which in a real way, became a source of strength for him. He was able to identify with young King David as he remembered the stories of the bible coming to life.
In The Confession, St. Patrick wrote:
"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."
The Irish were practicing Druids and St. Patricks master, Milchu was a high priest which was a major influence enslaving the people of Ireland. One night St. Patrick received a vision through a dream in which he heard a voice telling him his way home to England:
"I saw, in a nocturnal vision, a man named Victoricus coming as if from Ireland, with a large parcel of letters, one of which he handed to me. On reading the beginning of it, I found it contained these words: 'The voice of the Irish;' and while reading it I thought I heard, at the same moment, the voice of a multitude of persons near the Wood of Foclut, which is near the western sea; and they cried out, as if with one voice, 'We entreat thee, holy youth, to come and henceforth walk amongst us. ' And I was greatly affected in my heart, and could read no longer; and then I awoke."
Not knowing the story of St. Victoricus, it is extremely interesting that the man in the dream was St. Victoricus , who suffered martyrdom at Amiens, A.D. 286. Hebrews 12:1 teaches that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and the Lord Jesus is the perfecter of our Faith. He intervened in St. Patrick's life for his purpose.
Despite the Pagan influence, young St. Patrick clung to Christ and was strengthened by his Catholic Faith and the vision. Because of the people of Irish being held on the bondage of Paganism, St. Patrick began to see himself a missionary to these peoples.
About 408 A.D., after nearly six years of captivity and at the age of 20, St. Patrick was able to escape traveling 200 miles finding sailors who took him originally to France until he made his way back to England.
At this time, St. Patrick's mission in life was to become a Catholic priest which did please his family who supported his journey to Auxerre, France where he began his priestly formation. Pope St. Celestine I consecrates St. Patrick as Bishop sending him back to the land of his captivity.
With the early friendship and guidance of St. Germain, St. Patrick took the good news of Christ to the Pagan Irish to deliver them from bondage. Knowing the language well, St. Patrick began to have early success as miracles accompanied him from God.
St. Patrick writes of this experience:
"Ireland, which never had the knowledge of God, but up till now always adored idols and things unclean — how are they now made a people of the Lord, and are called children of God? The sons of the Scots and the daughters of their chieftains are seen to become monks and virgins of Christ."
As Bishop, he was Baptizing thousands at a time as he preached and administer the Sacraments. St. Patrick looked to cut off the head of the snake by reaching the High King Laoghaire who ruled the main central countryside in Ireland. What follows is much like what we read in the bible about Elijah confronting the Pagans of his time.
The opportunity came on Easter 433 A.D. as Laoghaire celebrated a pagan festival at Tara, a village in central Ireland. St. Patrick's challenge to the Druids concerned a fire they lit to celebrate the Easter Vigil.
This broke a pagan law that prohibited any fire during their pagan ritual. Being enraged, King Laoghire and his priests feared St. Patrick's fire would outshine anything they do. Consider this fear of the Druids? Christ outshines the darkness!
The Pagan King sent eight chariots of battle hard warriors to overrun St. Patrick's Easter Vigil celebration scene through the area.
Drochu, a chief druid priest challenged the Christian celebration of Easter but St. Patrick rebuked him praying the Lord punish Drochu. In the instant of a heartbeat, a mighty wind picked Drochu up off the ground and threw him to his death. With this the pagan warriors began to capture St. Patrick when he called out to the Lord. The Pagans were encircled by a dark cloud causing a panic among them.
The King in his observance of what was happening, became fearful wanted to learn more about the the Christian God.
This was really a rue as the King wanted to ambush St. Patrick and his people.
As Laoghaire and his assassins waited for the Christians to come to the agreed meeting place, St. Patrick and his associates walked on by as if they were invisible. Once in safety, the people praised God calling upon the Trinity, all of the Heavenly host to protect them from evil:
"Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me."
On Easter Day, St. Patrick and his companions appeared to walk through bolted doors to see the Pagan King. Invited to sit down and parley, the Pagan priest, Lucat-Mael offered St. Patrick a drink laced with poison. Knowing this, St. Patrick did the Sign of the Cross over the cup and immediately the drink went from being hot to ice except the poison. Dumping out the poison, St. Patrick again blessed the cup and the drink returned to normal. With everyone watching, the Pagan King Laoghaire was converted.
In time, the span of 40 years, St. Patrick established monasteries and organized Ireland into Dioceses. He used the famous shamrock to teach the people of the Blessed Trinity.
On March 17, 461, St. Patrick received his Heavenly reward now forever more a part of that great cloud of witnesses. He died at Saul, the village where he built his first church.
There were many times in my military career that the story of St. Patrick was a huge support and influence for me.
One of my Drill Instructors during an in ranks inspection looked at me and told me that he sensed that I was destined to do something great.
That had always stuck with me and so I felt I had a purpose even in the small things we did.
I escaped death many times during training and also in war scenarios.
The following prayer by St. Patrick really reminds me of the importance of recognizing the Lord's presence in all things.
To know that God is there when things go south. I served in the United States Army for more than 26 years. In that time I faced some close encounters with death. Many of us can identify with St. Patrick's prayer!
I was stationed in Germany between October 1986 through October 1989. I actually left Germany and returned to the United States about a month before the Berlin wall was to fall. I loved Germany, it has a rich history, a strong christian foundation.
You can drive the autobahn, the countryside and find crucifixes, statues in the middle of the field, or at some intersection on any street. It is an awesome place to spend a tour of duty. I was attached with a Support unit and I was a squad leader of the "Track Pack".
It was Reforger 1988, it was cold and wet. We had orders for our track ambulance to transport a fake casualty to higher medical support. It was part of training we were conducting with several other units in the field of operations. Anytime we had to move out, we always had to tear down our defensive position.
I had recently been promoted to Sergeant and I was solidly in charge of the "Track Pack" in the Ambulance Platoon. In those days it was always a chore putting up cammo net as it would always get hung up on the track.
There were a million places on the vehicle that always would tangle up. The crew usually would be a two man team consisting of a driver and a TC (someone who would keep an eye out for the driver). It was always demanding especially when you had to break track.
That was always hard work and you have to watch what your doing. I was in really good shape, I would do about 20 chin ups every morning just because I could. I would always max my PT Test in the 19-21 year old age group, not bad for an over 30 guy.
I worked hard to improve the readiness and proficiency of the track pack. It was a cold hard winter this year and the roads had snow and ice on the roads. We had orders to move our track through a village and into a prescribed place for medical support.
I was Troop Commander (TC) of our track and was sitting in the back hatch where it was cold. On our route, we were trying to make a trip down a large hill when the track became like a sled.
My driver lost control of the vehicle as we began to move across the highway. We edged toward the other side of the road and began to turn over when we were saved by a tree.
All we could do was to brace ourselves.
If the track had turned over, we would have plummeted to our death falling down a gorge at least a hundred feet.
When we were fully stopped the track was off the entire right side and the roof of the track had hit a lone tree. This tree was not a large tree, but it certainly stopped the track from rolling down this gorge.
The Driver and I could only position ourselves inside the track bracing ourselves for a terrible end. I remember it like slow motion, we began to flip over to our left when it just stopped right there in mid flip. We literally was sitting with the back of the track tilted against the tree. The right side track was way of the ground.
I opened the back door and our fake casualty who was riding in the back on a litter who came out from the back throwing up as he thought his life was over. It was a site to see as the track was literally on it's way to rolling sideways down this gorge. This was the only tree in the entire area and we hit it dead center. I thanked the Lord for his presence and for the tree!