Since today is St Patrick’s Day, I wanted to write a quick post about St Patrick. Few people know his story. I know that Mormons love to tell and listen to great missionary stories, and I think Patrick is an example of forgiveness, missionary work, and Christian service. I’ll keep it brief, but a longer version of this post can be found here.
Born under the name of Succat, Patrick grew up in as a wealthy Roman Citizen in what is now Britain. In 410 AD, barbarians attacked Rome. Troops were recalled to fight the invasion, leaving Britain exposed to marauders. Patrick was carried away as a 16 year old slave to Irish warlords, where he worked guarding sheep for six years. In a dream, he was told by God to flee, and returned to his native home.
He was never comfortable at home, and had another dream entailing a vision of the Irish people. They asked him, with one voice, to return to them and to bring them the word of God. He prepared for 12 years, and finally returned as a missionary bishop. The religion of that time in Ireland was Druidic. He angered Druidic priests by lighting a fire on a mountain to celebrate Easter.
Legends about St. Patrick abound. It is said that he used the shamrock to explain the trinity, and that he drove the snakes from Ireland. By the time of Patrick’s death in 461, Ireland was overwhelmingly Christian. A society of Irish monks would prove vital to saving western history and culture.
In the chaos of the barbarian invasions, all the great libraries of Western Europe were destroyed. Irish monks, who had been illiterate prior to Patrick’s missionary journey, devoted themselves to copying and preserving the literature of the vanishing culture.
Paul L Maier, professor of History, Western Michigan University states, ‘I think it would be safe to say that every book written before the year 1000 AD—that includes all of the Greco-Roman classics, that includes all of Holy Scripture, Old and New Testaments, that includes all the theological works, from the Jewish side, that includes Josephus, Augustin or anyone else, we would not have these books today, if it had not been for the manuscript recopying in these monasteries.’
It seems that Mormons often look down on other religions when we refer to the Apostasy. I can remember attending a Lutheran Bible Study class years ago. When I spoke to the Lutheran priest, he said that Mormons act like nothing happened between 100 AD and 1830. He found that Mormons were completely unaware of most history prior to 1830, and I must say I still agree with him. I have endeavored to learn more.
Without St Patrick, and the conversion of Ireland, Christianity would have lost some priceless treasures that all Christians enjoy. I think St Patrick’s missionary stories should be better known, and lauded by all Christians. I think his life is an example of Christian service, and forgiveness, that we all should emulate.
Great post! You’re right. Even now I have to suppress a bias within me that automatically discounts as apocryphal all Christian stories between 100 and 1830. There is truth and the love of Christ in many stories during the “Great Apostasy” and too often I think we just focus on the negatives (The Crusades, the so-called Dark Ages) in order to bolster our claim that the Restoration was necessary.
Thanks for this, and hopefully I can train myself to lose some of that bias.
Thanks for this, MH. I agree with Arthur about the tendency to dismiss these things too quickly.
Elder Uchtdorf gave a wonderful talk, “Faith of Our Fathers”. I think of it every time I read something like this.
I went to a session of Music and the Spoken Word with some non-member friends a few months ago. It was interesting to me that Lloyd Newell, voice of the Choir quoted Thomas Aquinas. I imagine if I gave a similar talk in sacrament meeting, or a Sunday School lesson, that my bishop would tell me that I wasn’t quoting “the brethren” enough. Of course, I live in Utah County, so perhaps other wards aren’t so ultra-conservative as my ward.
Thanks for posting this. I’ve learned something today.
I felt spiritually and intellectually fed by this post as well. Thanks.
I motion that MM begins a regular series that highlights either a) lesser-known facts and facets of world religions, or b) early Christian history. I would nominate myself, but I’m far underqualified in these realms. Just today I learned over at BCC, for example, that Catholics’ belief in the “immaculate conception” refers to Mary being born without the taint of Original Sin, and does _not_ refer to the “virgin birth” of Jesus.
Thanks Andrew and Steve. I’d like to see how others feel as well. I have posted this type of information on my blog in the past. This type of post often doesn’t get very many comments, and sometimes I wonder if it is worth it to write. On the other hand, these types of posts can receive some of the most page visits on my site, so perhaps it is “popular”, even if the comments don’t indicate popularity.
I know it’s not typical fare here, but I can continue to post on topics like this if people think it is worthwhile. Even though it may not be specifically “mormon” in nature, I always try to bring it back to mormons somehow.
There is much for us to learn and to be grateful about. Our Christian brothers have done much good in the world. I do want to point out it’s not only Mormons who are uninformed. I find that most people anywhere are blissfully unaware of most anything that happened before the 20th century.