Pastor's wife: St. Patrick was an unlikely but willing instrument to be used by God


The true story of St. Patrick is not for the faint of heart.  In fact, when I have the opportunity to share it with the church kids, I don’t give all the details to the little ones.

While much is available on the internet these days, I learned Pat’s amazing story years ago from the pages of the encyclopedia.

The high points:  Patrick was born in Britain around 400 A.D. to wealthy parents.  He was kidnapped by pirates when he was a teenager and taken to Ireland, where he was sold as a slave to a shepherd.  After six long years, Patrick escaped and returned to his homeland.  Not long after his return, he felt called to go back to Ireland as a missionary.  Unfortunately, the religious leaders of his time felt he was not educated enough.  Unthwarted (love that word), after a time Patrick did indeed return to Ireland and used the three-leafed shamrock to tell the Irish people about the Trinity: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The converts and baptisms recorded for Patrick’s ministry vary.  It is told that he baptized at least 10,000 and planted 300 churches.  St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, is thought to be the date of his death.

God was working through Patrick’s captivity.  He later wrote that while he was a slave, he spent countless hours alone.  His loneliness drew him to God.  It was in that time, caring for the sheep that he prayed and listened to the Lord.  In fact, he told that it was God who directed him in a dream how to escape.

Though feeling the call to serve as a missionary, Patrick was at first considered an unlikely instrument.  Oh, praise the Lord that He can use any of us who are willing. The Voice of the Martyrs tells that his family was horrified for him to return to “the barbaric” Ireland.  In truth, while surrendered as a missionary, Patrick often faced danger and opposition. 

Reading of Patrick reminds me of the story of Joseph in Genesis.  Sold into slavery in Egypt, then falsely imprisoned for years, Scripture records frequently that the Lord was with him during those difficult times.  In the end, Joseph told his brothers that the Lord intended it all for good (Genesis 50:20).

Is there a hard thing in your life God is using for good? 

Psalm 23:4 is a good reminder that, even though we walk through the darkest valley, God is with us.  We can count on His faithfulness in the dark times as well as the good times.  Romans 8:28 encourages, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”  

Patrick used the well-known shamrock to tell the people of Ireland about God.  Is there something simple you can use to do the same?  My thing is giving away Bible verse cards.  It makes it easy to strike up a conversation.  What might your “shamrock” be?  God will show you.  Then, let’s be unthwarted in sharing the gospel.

Dawn Reed is a pastor's wife and newspaper columnist. Reach her at