St. Patrick

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This post continues a series on Movement Pioneers…with a focus on those who have been catalysts in Britain and Europe

Today is St. Patrick’s Day…although, now, more than often revered simply as a day given over to drunkenness and festivity…it is apt that we take time to reflect on the central character behind this occasion…traditionally this day marks the historic importance and legacy of a man who was captured and taken over to Ireland originally as a slave

We know of his story through his own journal that reads like an excerpt from the scriptures…he literally lived and breathed the Bible

After several years as an enslaved shepherd, facing lonely nights and harsh environments and praying up to 100 times a day…he took his opportunity to escape his captors and got on a boat back to England

It wasn’t too long before he had a vision of an angel named Victoricus coming to him calling him to return. It was the ‘voice of the Irish’ begging him to go and walk amongst them again

Patrick was obedient to the heavenly vision and returned to the people who had enslaved him to preach the gospel of a kingdom not of this earth

What was remarkable about Patrick was his ability to plant the seed of the Kingdom without all the trappings of a Romanized form of church to see a truly indigenous Celtic form of church emerge from the sons of the soil in Ireland

The emerging form of Celtic Christ-centres community was full of wonder, poetry, story telling, and took seriously the sacred ‘book of nature’ and shared community life

Churches sprang up in the wake of Patricks work all across Ireland…

Patrick is credited as the first to speak out against slavery…this had a dramatic impact leading to the end of slavery in Ireland…his preaching also showed how Christ was sacrificed once and for all rendering human and animal sacrifice redundant: ‘Christ had died once for all’

As tribal kings and clans were transferred from the kingdom of darkness to light the zeal for war amongst the tribes was translated into a zeal for Christ’s Kingdom that manifested itself in poet warriors seeking out isolated rugged places to live as hermits committed to prayer

However…others began seeking out these hermits in order to learn from their life and example…out of this emerged a new kind of celtic monastic community consisting of several huts for each monk and rhythms of life that revolved around prayer, community, learning, creativity and working the land.

These Celtic monastic communities, usually led by an abbot or abbess usually gathered at least 12 other people following our Lords example…but these communities continued to expand, growing into settlements, villages, Kingdom colonies and ultimately monastic city-states which sent out Pilgrims who entered coracles where the wind of the Spirit blew them to far flung lands across Europe

And so…the seeds of new Celtic monastic communities began to spread beyond Ireland

For example, less than 90 years after Patricks arrival in Ireland, Columcille (known as St. Columba) chose to become a monk. By the age of 41 he founded at least 41 Irish foundations. He set out from Ireland with 12 companions until they reached the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland and founded a new monastic community that would act as a spearhead for mission amongst the Scots and Picts resulting in 60 monastic communities in this land of the north by the time of his death

Aidan, spiritual heir of Columba became the first abbot of Lindisfarne, a monastery in North East Northumbria that became a beachhead for the establishing of yet more communities in a mission amongst the Northern English

Many other pioneering Celtic saints travelled across Europe founding communities that eventually became some of the most influential cities in Europe

So today, on St Patricks Day, let’s drink a pint of Guinness or 2 and thank our Most High King of Heaven for sending one of the most influential apostles after Paul to catalyse a movement that literally transformed Europe…

And raise your glasses and cry out for an army of ‘white martyrs’ to again traverse land and sea to take the enduring message of the Kingdom of Jesus to the lands that lie in the darkest continent on the planet…present day Europa…Contact us if you’re involved with mission in the UK and Ireland and would like to join a travelling mission team

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