An aristocratic British teenager is kidnapped by pirates, sold into slavery, escapes and returns home, becomes a priest, returns to his land of captivity and face off against hordes of Druids. Here are five facts about the amazing life of St. Patrick, the Indiana Jones of Christian saints:
1. Taken from his home in southern Britain, Patrick was captured by pirates in A.D. 405 when he was only sixteen years old and sold into slavery in Ireland. He would spend over half a decade as a captive in the pagan land of Druids. During his captivity, Patrick embraced the Christian faith of his upbringing, something that had mattered little to him before his kidnapping.
2. Patrick managed to escape Ireland and make his way back to his home in Britain. Inspired by a dream, he sensed God’s call to return to Ireland in order to share the gospel with the pagans. Patrick assumed he’d meet his demise in Ireland, yet never feared. “Daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises,” he said. “But I fear nothing, because of the promises of heaven.”
3. Pagan kings and warlords felt threatened by Patrick’s missionary work. But Patrick was able obtain the favor of local leaders and to gain safe passage by paying bribes to authorities in Ireland. Of the bribes he paid, Patrick said, “I do not regret this nor do I regard it as enough. I am paying out still and I shall pay out more.”
4. A legend often associated with St. Patrick is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea during one of his sermons. But snakes are not actually found in post-glacial Ireland because of the country’s geographical position. Some historians believe the snake imagery in the legend alludes to Patrick banishing Druids from Ireland.
5. Though we can’t be sure when Patrick died, tradition holds that he lived into his seventies and died on March 17 in the latter half of the fifth-century A.D. In twenty-five or thirty years of evangelistic work, he led thousands of Irish pagans to Christ and was responsible for Ireland’s becoming one of the most Christian nations in Europe. For this reason he is called “the apostle of the Irish.”