Patrick held out to these warrior children (the Irish), in his own person a living alternative. It is possible to be brave – to expect “every day … to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved – whatever may come my way” – and yet be a man of peace at peace, a man without sword or desire to harm, a man in whom the sharp fear of death has been smoothed away. He was “not afraid of any of these things, because of the promises of heaven; for I have put myself in the hands of God Almighty.” Patrick’s peace was no sham: it issued from his person like a fragrance. And in a damp land where people lived and sleep in close proximity, everyone would have known sooner or later if Patrick’s sleep was brought on by the goddess of intoxication or broken by the goddess of fear. Patrick slept soundly and soberly. ~ How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill
Patrick was far from someone who merely integrated into a culture so as to subdue or convince them of a different god. His faith was real and it was living in him to the point that a spiritual people couldn’t help but sense it all over him. Like Paul before him, he became all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. He was a living example of what a life lived out in complete humility before the God of the universe would look like while in an adopted home. He struggled with guilt over the sin of his past. His writing suggests that we might classify him these days as having poor self-esteem. He sure wasn’t the charismatic and confident leader we might wish to see. He was, however, focused on the profound and unimaginable greatness of God that transcends cultures and found true peace and true courage. He oozed the presence of the Prince of Peace and Lord of lords.
This is the Patrick who stood alone in the confidence of his Saviour, defying the Druid gods and goddesses in a strikingly similar story to that of Elijah on Mount Carmel. As the Druids looked across from the Hill of Tara to the Hill of Slane where Patrick was they trembled at the thought that Patrick’s fire might burn forever on this island. Patrick defied their gods and goddesses that night. He defied them with his life as he was welcomed into communities after that. He defied fear by going to sleep sober. When others would wake in horror during the night finding that intoxication had only saved them a short while, he slept on. His peace and courage were not lip service to a constructed spiritual being. They were completely transcendent.
This is the Patrick of St. Patrick’s Day. A man who fiercely loved God and fiercely loved the Irish. He committed his life to being a living alternative.