Trying in vain to find a comfortable spot, Patrick leaned back against the sharp rocks for what seemed the thousandth time. Cold and jagged, they reminded him of how much he missed his bed at home, and how long it had been since he’d lain down without a care. He thought of how he’d come to Ireland six years before: kidnapped, bound, and carried away from England’s shores by pirates. In slavery since, he had tended sheep on the lonely mountain slopes of northwest Ireland.
As lonely as his hours were, Patrick knew the presence of God: strong, bright, comforting. Within the span of a single day, he would say as many as two hundred prayers. Picture Patrick: strong, lanky, rugged, and in continual conversation with Jesus, the true Shepherd.
One night a vision—as lofty as the mountains and as bright as the stars—convinced him to run away from his master in search of freedom and home. Covering some two hundred miles by foot, he arrived at a port where a ship was about to set sail. Penniless, he convinced the crew to allow him safe passage.
Eventually Patrick found his way back to Britain, and into the no-doubt joyful arms of friends and family. But it wasn’t enough. Years of walking with God on those Irish hills had changed him into a mountain of a man: immovable in his faith and dedicated to guiding others to Christ. He studied theology and the Bible, and was ordained a priest in the Church.
And then came the shocking news, straight from Patrick’s heart: he would move back to Ireland, the place where he had toiled so long in slavery. He knew the language and the customs, and he longed to share the news of Christ. While Christianity had touched Ireland’s shores hundreds of years previously, the majority of the Irish did not know Jesus in their hearts like Patrick did.
Full of fire, Patrick returned to Ireland. Over the next fifty to sixty years, he baptized thousands, became a bishop, ordained priests to start new communities of faith, and fought off evil when ever it crossed his path. Rough and rugged and protective of God’s people, he remains beloved today, and is Ireland’s patron saint. On March 17, his special day, wear green in his memory!
Like Patrick, Brigid of Kildare was full of stories and life and spirit. She loved all that God had created, and honored the way the Irish celebrated nature. Through their eyes, she came to love the rugged beauty of the Irish sea, the deep black of the night, and the day to day rhythm of sunrise to sunset. Legend has it that before Ireland came to know Christ, fires burned in honor of pagan gods. When Brigid started her community at Kildare, she declared that fire was the light of Christ, and that it would bring new life to Ireland.
Every day a monk or a nun would ensure that the fire stayed alive: cracking, sizzling, smoking with warmth and heat. When Brigid died in 470, the flames burned, uninterrupted, for over 1000 years, until monasteries were destroyed during the Reformation. In 1933, the fire was relit by Brigid’s order, and continues to burn to this day.
Brigid was known for her great work among Ireland’s poor, and her labor as an evangelist—one who share the Good News of Jesus. As her community engaged in Bible study and taking care of God’s holy word, she shared food and milk with lepers and outcasts, cured the sick and healed the blind. She was said to have an inexhaustible supply of butter which she would give to anyone who asked. Her joy was in seeing those around her well-fed and nourished in soul, spirit and body. Like Patrick, she continues to be honored and loved in Ireland today. It is said that the ashes of Patrick and Brigid are buried together, and that they continue to protect the Irish people, whom they loved so dearly.
From Meet the Saints: A Family Storybook, published by Foreward Movement. Written by Lindsay Hardin Freeman and Melody Shobe.