St. Patrick of Ireland (387-493)

St. Patrick’s Day: Think Again!

It is sad to know, that most people associate the name of St. Patrick with the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day—which involves beer, drunkenness, the color green, and lastly, leprechauns, lucky clovers, and perhaps a celebration of Irish culture. So sad! Patrick had nothing to do with these things!

St. Patrick: A Prophet to Be Feared

Patrick was a prophet; and I don’t say that lightly. He was one of the most holy and terrifying prophets ever to walk God’s green earth. He literally killed his persecutors by the power of God, on more than one occasion—like Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 1:1-15; 2:23-25). But that was not his purpose. His ultimate meaning in life was to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He was very devout and reverent. Every night he went to pray in an ice cold river as an ascetic discipline for his flesh. He sang Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs all the time. He seemed to be always praying—especially during night vigils when everyone else was asleep. He had dreams and visions often; and once a week his angel named Victoricus visited him in an apparition—for a season of his life.

Patrick vs. the Irish Wizards

Patrick was British, but God commanded him through dreams[1] to do missionary work in Ireland, which was then a brutal and savage country. Most of the Irish were barbaric pagans, who hated Christians, and sought to kill them. At the time, the pagan religion of Druidism dominated the British Isles (Britain, Scotland, and Ireland). It was the British version of the ancient Greek religion. All the gods were basically the same as Zeus, Mars, etc—but the names were different—Dagda, Tara, etc. The priests of the Druids were wizards that practiced witchcraft, used magic spells, and incantations. They used the power their demon-gods to control the weather, “heal” the sick, and work magic signs and wonders. The wizard Merlin that is depicted in the legend of King Arthur was a Druid.

They had a supernatural worldview, but it was tainted by demonic apparitions in the forms of gods, fairies, leprechauns, gnomes, mermaids, trolls, and other “magical” creatures. From Patrick’s Christian perspective, all of these spirits were merely demons that were deceiving the people,[2] and God had sent him to deliver them from their superstitions. But when Patrick and other Christian monks with him set foot on Ireland, they were challenged by the wizards, who were intent on killing Patrick and discrediting the Christian faith.

Patrick’s Method Was Power Evangelism

In order for Patrick to successfully spread the Gospel of Christ in this “magical” pagan land of Ireland—he needed to prove to everyone that Jesus is more powerful than the gods of the Irish wizards. Patrick had to use power evangelism,[3] for there was no other way. The kings, queens, and people were too much under the power of witchcraft. Time and time again, the Irish people, and especially the kings, would see with their own eyes, the demonic magic of the wizards in operation. The only way to get them to come to Christ was for the Christians to work miracles more powerful than the wizards could—and by God’s grace, this is what Patrick did. It appears that the mighty miracles which he worked before their eyes, were shown to him in dreams and visions years before he performed them. He said: “I will not hide, nor be silent about those signs and wonders which were shown to me by the Lord many years before they actually occurred” (Confession, Ch. 45). This gave him the miraculous faith he needed when the situations prophetically fulfilled around him. He tapped into those years old visionary memories for miraculous faith—and worked the signs and wonders among the Irish by the power of God and the prayer of faith.

Patrick Prayed, Saw Visions, and Worked Miracles

In the middle of many trials and tribulations, spiritual warfare dreams, and times in the desert—Patrick learned the ascetic ways of the monks, and was a mighty man of prayer. For examples to imitate, he looked back to Paul of Thebes and Antony the Great. And during his times of prayer, he saw many visions—and when he slept, he had many prophetic dreams. His angel Victoricus often brought him words of encouragement. When he prayed for miracles—they happened in the sight of men. He was definitely moving in a realm of faith that most Christians will never experience. His followers likened him to Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist. Patrick was a Christian prophet.

Patrick: A Moses Figure for Ireland

God sent Patrick to Ireland to spread the Gospel; and he succeeded in planting a monastery in the northeastern town of Armagh.[4] But this was not accomplished without a few miracle contests between Patrick and two Irish wizards. A certain Irish king (Loíguire) in Patrick’s area had two court wizards named Lucet Máel and Lochru. Patrick was considered to be like Moses, because he stood up to these two wizards like Moses stood up to Pharaoh’s magicians (Exod. 7:11; 2 Tim. 3:8).

Patrick’s Prayers Kill a Wizard
And Almost 50 Soldiers!

On the first occasion, Patrick and his friends intentionally celebrated their Easter feast, on the day that the Druids were celebrating the pagan feast of Tara. When King Loíguire found out about this illegal activity, he set out with his two wizards, and about 50 soldiers. They wanted to kill Patrick and his friends, but feared them enough to bring both wizards and all those soldiers! And all of the soldiers were either on horseback or in chariots! When they had all surrounded Patrick, the wizard Lochru began to mock Patrick, blaspheme the Name of Jesus, and say disrespectful things about Christianity. Then a gift of faith moved in Patrick, he stared Lochru boldly in the eyes, and shouted with all confidence: “O Lord, who can do all things, in whose power all things exist—who has sent me here, grant that this unholy man who blasphemes Your Name, may now be lifted up and cast away, and die quickly!” And instantly, the wizard was miraculously launched up into the air many feet, and fell on the ground—splitting his head open on a rock! And when the Druids saw that he was dead, they feared Patrick and the Lord Jesus.

But King Loíguire—like Pharaoh—had a hardened heart. He was used to seeing supernatural manifestations performed by his wizards. So, seeing that Patrick had killed one of his beloved wizards, the king ordered his cavalry to kill him. But then Patrick prayed: “Let God arise, and his enemies be scattered; let those who hate Him flee from before Him!” (Ps. 67:2). And instantly, a black mist fell on the army—and they fought and nearly killed all of one another in a state of confusion. Then there was a tremendous earthquake, and all of the chariots and horses were crashed together and mostly killed. A small group survived and ran away to a nearby mountain. Only four people remained standing—broken, afraid, and almost repentant: the king, his wife, and two pagans. They all went home.

Patrick Prays for Snow to Instantly Disappear
That Had Been Conjured Up by a Wizard!

On another occasion, the other wizard, Lucet Máel, challenged Patrick to a miracle contest on a field in the sight of everyone. Patrick accepted the challenge, provided that the nature of the miracle did not contradict God’s will. Then the wizard said he would make it snow by using his magic power. So, he began to invoke the power of his god through magic spells and incantations. And sure enough, the wizard called down snow by demonic power. Everyone was amazed, because the snow was so deep that it reached a man’s belt. Confident in the power of God, Patrick boldly said to the wizard: “Look now—we have all seen you do this—now get rid of it!” But the wizard said he would have to wait for 24 hours until he could invoke another magic spell to melt the snow. Then, by proving the power of Christ to be greater than the wizard’s, Patrick replied: “You are able to cause bad things to happen, but not good things. This is not the way it is with me.” Then Patrick blessed the field that the wizard had filled with snow. And instantly—in a split second—the snow disappeared! The people were greatly amazed and their hearts began to turn to Christ. And with many other nature miracles, healings, and deliverances—Patrick spread the Christian faith throughout Ireland. And the eastern city of Armagh was his mission base; and his monastery was built there.[5]

[1] The Confession of St. Patrick contains about five prophetic dreams that he received.

[2] “All the gods of the nations are demons, but the Lord made the Heavens” (Ps. 96:5, RHE).

[3] This phrase has been used by Charismatics since John Wimber’s Power Evangelism (1986). “Miracle evangelism” would be another way of saying it. Wimber maintained that the Gospel needs to be preached “with signs following” (Mark 16:20) in order to be convincing.

[4] The Town of Armagh is in northeastern Ireland. It is about 30 miles southwest of Belfast.

[5] In The Rule for Monks by Columbanus, a later Irish saint, it says that it is the “monks who imitate the sons of the prophets” (Celtic Spirituality, ed. Oliver Davies, Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999), p. 248. The “sons of the prophets” were apparently prophetic monastic communities that followed Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha (1 Sam. 19:18-20; 2 Kings 2; 6:1-2).

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