Who is Saint Patrick and why is he still celebrated today?

Saint Patrick depicted in a stained glass window at the Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Junction City, Ohio(Photo: NHeyob)

Patrick's family lived on a small estate near the village of Bannavem Taburniae, the exact location of which is uncertain. Although his father was a deacon, Patrick was not a believer, but this was to change.

Born around 387 AD, it was in his teens that Patrick was captured by a gang of Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland, a turn of events he came to believe was a punishment for his lack of faith. He was put to work for six years herding sheep and pigs on Slemish Mountain in County Antrim, but while he was a shepherd, Patrick spent much of his time in prayer and seeking the Lord regarding his future.

In an escape bid, Patrick stowed away on a boat bound for Britain and landed not far from where his parents lived. It was then that Patrick decided to become a priest, and after a dream, he was inspired to return to Ireland.

He spent several years studying before he felt ready to take up the life of a missionary, but he eventually returned to Ireland as the country's second bishop and brought the message of Christ to many people who had never heard it.

As a missionary, Patrick baptised thousands of people. But being a missionary was not an easy task for him and he wrote of how his life was at risk, and how the local pagan chiefs sometimes imprisoned him. Nonetheless, he knew his call was from God, and he remained in Ireland.

Patrick was a man of great courage, who found new and accessible ways of evangelism for his time. He committed himself to follow the Great Commission in Matthew 28: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.'

This is exactly what Patrick did in his lifetime and we are still commanded to do the same in our own time and in our own place.

The Great Commission is not something that is left to the saints of old; it is still spoken to the saints of today – to all of us.

We are all entrusted with the great honour and responsibility of evangelism of taking the Good News of God in Christ, and speaking these words into our modern world so that all may know the love and grace of God.

Patrick's prayer, 'I Rise Today' – known as 'St Patrick's Breastplate' – continues to inspire me in my own journey with Christ and may it do the same for you.  Why not print it off and pray it daily during this season of Lent?

I rise today

with the power of God to pilot me,

God's strength to sustain me,

God's wisdom to guide me,

God's eye to look ahead for me,

God's ear to hear me,

God's word to speak for me,

God's hand to protect me,

God's way before me,

God's shield to defend me,

God's host to deliver me, from snares of devils, from evil temptations, from nature's failing, from all who wish to harm me, far or near, alone and in a crowd.

Rev Canon J John is an evangelist and the director of the Philo Trust. Find him online at www.canonjjohn.com