Time can turn people into legends and legends into myths. But often, there is a real man or woman at the beginning who lived a regular yet extraordinary life. That can be said of St. Patrick. Through the modern cultural celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, it can be difficult to determine what is actually being celebrated. It seems like a celebration of Irish culture and drunkenness, yet in reality the celebration stems from the evangelization or Ireland by St. Patrick. March 17 is the purported day that this man of faith and missionary died. And the world, in a way, still celebrates his evangelism efforts, even if the means of their celebration have forgotten him.
“Patricius, better known as Saint Patrick, is remembered today as the saint who drove the snakes out of Ireland, the teacher who used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and the namesake of annual parades in New York and Boston. What is less well-known is that Patrick was a humble missionary (this saint regularly referred to himself as “a sinner”) of enormous courage. When he evangelized Ireland, he set in motion a series of events that impacted all of Europe. It all started when he was carried off into slavery around 430.”
If I were to pull a lesson out of the story of St. Patrick, one would be this: Grow where you are planted.
Patrick was born around 385 in northeast England to a Romanized Christian family. His dad was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest, but as a teenager Patrick didn’t hold tightly to the faith of his family. One biographer said of him, “he lived toward the wild side.”
In the time of Patrick, the Irish were barbarians. They were wild and ungodly. At age sixteen, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland. For six years he served there as a slave. Throughout that time, he learned the language and customs of the people of Ireland. Also, throughout that time, he came to faith in Jesus. It’s often when we are at rock bottom and in the most difficult times in our life when we see our great need for Jesus.
C.S. Lewis has famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Patrick said of his conversion, “all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection [wretchedness], and mercy on my youth and ignorance.” There are many young people who, sadly, have to learn the hard way how much they really need to follow Jesus. Sometimes the school of hard knocks teaches us more than Sunday school. At least it opens our eyes and heart to what we learned in Sunday school.
“When he eventually escaped from slavery, he was a changed man, now a Christian from the heart. He studied for the ministry, and led a parish in Britain for nearly 20 years.” When most people were ready to retire, because he had already outlived the low life expectancy of the time, Patrick received a call to bring the gospel to the people who once enslaved him. And since he knew them from the inside, he knew ways in which he could reach them. He knew their language, customs, and culture. And he knew how they best would hear and receive the gospel.
Patrick had a dream, which proved to be his own version of a Macedonian Call (Acts 16:9). An Irish accent pleaded, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” He formed a team and travelled around Ireland sharing with those who would listen and planting churches with Irish converts. It was how we seek to do international missions today before that was ever heard of. It was simply incredible, though he received much flack for dining and spending time with such barbarians, though he took solace in the fact that Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matt 11:19).
Patrick wrote, “I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel, and to suffer insult from the unbelievers, bearing the reproach of my going abroad and many persecutions even unto bonds, and to give my free birth for the benefit of others.”
“Patrick entered an Ireland full of paganism and idol worship. But just a few short decades after Patrick arrived, a healthy, Christ-honoring church was thriving. The Irish church was so strong that in the centuries to come it would send missionaries to evangelize much of continental Europe.”
Grow where you are planted. Patrick met Jesus in captivity and returned to those who held him captive in order to set them free.
You are in the season you are in for a reason. It is to draw you near to Jesus and to allow you to help others see him for who he is: Savior, Redeemer, Giver of Life, and the only One who satisfies.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
Don’t let the soil of adversity kill what’s inside you. Let it to be the nourishment that allows what God wants to do in you and through you to grow.
It is said that St. Patrick used the shamrock, knowing the Irish people’s fascination with numbers and the number three, to explain the importance of who God is, three-in-one. He used what he learned from his difficult past to grow where he was planted and teach people of the true nature of God. He met the Irish where they were and led them to the Savior.
God has the same plan for you. To a different people. In a different time. Through a different circumstance. But the same God. And the same gospel. And the same call. Grow where you are planted. And watch the seeds scatter, take root, and grow.
 George G. Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism, 10th Revised edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), 13.
 C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 91.