Monday, March 16, 2009

St Patrick: Evangelizer Extraordinaire


Two traits are patently evident in Patrick’s Confession: his humility and his strength. These characteristics are missing in early biographies and in the legends.
The missionary Patrick who returned to Ireland was a strong and vigorous personality. He was tough and determined. He had to be to pursue the vision that launched him in the evangelization of the pagan island. He was not the least bit reluctant to undertake this mission despite the fact that in 400 years no one had taken the Gospel beyond the bounds of Roman civilization. As each obstacle was encountered, Patrick mustered the strength to overcome it.
With limited education -- he was chiefly self-educated -- but with the grace of the experience of his enslaved exile, Patrick determined to do what no other had done in the previous four centuries of Christian history. He decided to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and he planned wisely a way to do it. Unaided he figured out how to carry Christian values to the barbarians who practiced human sacrifice, who constantly warred with each other, and who were noted slave traders. That was neither simple nor easy to attempt. Most likely he hazarded this challenge of evangelization never before undertaken by the missionaries of the Greco-Roman world because the Christians of the continent did not consider barbarians to be human.
Patrick’s years as a slave had uniquely molded his attitude to mount a heroic effort to reach the minds and hearts of these untamed people. Patrick detested slavery, and may have been the first Christian leader to speak out unequivocally against it. The Church did not formally condemn slavery as immoral until the late nineteenth century. Patrick had experienced this suffering, knew how to suffer with others, and understood the sufferings of others. Compassion was his strong suit.
A more genuine advocate for the disadvantaged and the marginated of society than Patrick would be difficult to find. Without doubt he is one of the great saints of the downtrodden and excluded whom others shun.
In Patrick women too find an advocate. He speaks of them as individual human beings, lauds their strength and courage in the sufferings they endured in slavery, and respects them as handmaids of the Lord. Unlike most of his episcopal contemporaries, he might be the first male Christian since Jesus to speak so positively about women.
Patrick was convinced he had a God-given mission, and that Providence would see him through thick and thin. This gave him the will to return to the barbarians who had mistreated him. Patrick saw God at work in the world as a loving and benevolent Father. (by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.)

If anyone would like the full article send me a note. Sr Margaret

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