The Real St. Patrick of IrelandFor many, St. Patrick's Day is a day for decorating with green shamrocks and a time when people go around pinching others because they aren't wearing green. Yet, little is said about the occasion's namesake, "Saint Patrick," unless it is a legend about him using the shamrock to teach the Trinity or driving snakes out of Ireland.

However, the truth about the real Patrick of Ireland is a story worth telling. For starters, he wasn't Irish or even Roman Catholic, but he was born into a Christian family on the west coast of Britain late in the 4th Century. Despite the influence of his father, who was a deacon, and his grandfather, who was a pastor, Patrick did not genuinely know God.

That changed completely at the age of 16 when Irish raiders captured Patrick and sold him into slavery in Ireland. There, as an abused teenage slave herding sheep on lonely hillsides, he had ample time to reflect on his sinful past and pour out his heart to God in prayer. After six years, God directed him in a dream to escape, and with God's help, he finally made it back to his family in Britain. Then, against the wishes of his family, Patrick obeyed God's call and went back to the Irish as a missionary. Back in Ireland, he experienced hardships, imprisonment, and narrow escapes from martyrdom, but he also rejoiced in the "so many thousands" he won to faith in Christ.

We know all this from two surviving sources, his Latin Confessio, in which Patrick defends his ministry against the critics back in Britain, and a letter he wrote to a British marauder named Coroticus. Patrick humbly acknowledged his lack of proper education and his poor Latin, but both his "Confession" and his letter are saturated with the Word of God. Almost every sentence echoes phrases from the Old or New Testament, indicating that Patrick knew the Bible so well that its words came as naturally as his breath. It's easy to see how the convicting power of God's Spirit accompanied his preaching.

Patrick's testimony translated into English is too lengthy to copy here, but you may want to encourage your homeschool students to read it carefully this St. Patrick's Day. Not only will they find God's answers to St. Patrick's prayers inspiring, but they'll also learn that it only takes one young person totally yielded to God to transform a nation!