About the saint in Patrick

Yep. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s day. We know the Irish part. But what about the saint part?

I’ve been rereading “The Celtic Way of Evangelism.” In it, George Hunter talks about how Patrick worked in Ireland.

A few basics. In the late 300s, Patrick was a 16 year-old English boy when he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. After 6 years, he escaped and went back to England. He studied theology. He became a priest. And in his late forties, he headed back to Ireland.  Back to the land that represented pain for him, and captivity and suffering.


In his Confession, he said that it was God sending him back.

According to Hunter, it was a pretty effective career change. He knew the language. He knew the culture. He came with the credibility of a person returning to the scene of his pain with forgiveness and hope rather than with revenge.  Hunter goes further and suggests that the approach of Patrick and his followers was pretty creative.

Rather than making people become British (or Roman) to become Christian, Patrick became Irish. Patrick and a group of people would set up camp alongside a town. They would build relationships. They would show the relationships they had. They would tell the Gospel in stories, in the language and style of the Irish. When they built monasteries, they were more like safe havens than fortresses.

Hunter says that in the Celtic approach that Patrick and his successors followed, belonging comes before believing. You are welcomed before you share the beliefs of the community rather than because you share them. However, in time, the community shapes you as you discover that the people really live what they say they believe.

That approach makes Patrick a saint. I’m guessing it also makes saints.

10 thoughts on “About the saint in Patrick

    1. Jon Swanson

      and snakes. and green snakes. and snakes drinking green food dye.


      As I think about it, there was an interesting amount of imagination for Patrick. Even in the prayers that we associate with him, there is a whole of lifeness. So, though I’m pretty sure that the green food dye in milk and other beverages postdates him, maybe he would smile as he handed it to you and then asked about your life.


  1. Frank Reed

    The Scripture says we are all saints so yes we are for sure.

    What is interesting is that the only way this could have been done is through God’s power and grace. We have to be careful what we are willing to ‘become’ in the name of God because our nature (that nasty sin thing) could take over and we get lost in the new environment that we are there to help. It’s a bit like telling an alcoholic to hang out in bars to help other alcoholics. May work for some but ……..

    Personally, I need God’s strength to do anything and since St. Patrick did this with the Lord it worked. Here’s to it working for everyone today.


    1. Jon Swanson

      the challenge, I think, is what do people have to become on the way to becoming followers of Jesus? I understand completely the risk of walking into the environment of your addiction, whether it be alcohol or facebook or workaholism (don’t know exactly where that is located).

      That said, I see Patrick not making people become British to become followers of Jesus. Instead, he helped them become Irish followers of Jesus. Often, people have had to learn church culture as well as Christ’s culture or even, instead of.

      And, I agree, that it grows out of strength that God provides. And wisdom. And patience. And forgiveness.


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