It Is Well With My Soul: March 17, 2022 (St. Patrick’s Day)

It Is Well With My Soul

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.” –Philippians 3:20-21

I think one of the best examples of a horrible situation being transformed into something amazing is that of St. Patrick.
Born to Roman parents, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. His captivity lasted six years, and he escaped after having a dream in which God told him to head for the coast. Some sailors were there and took him back to Britain. After some time had passed, he had a vision in which a man handed him a letter called “The Voice of the Irish”. The man in his vision begged him to come and walk among the Irish once more. Patrick listened, did seminary studies, was ordained, and headed to the land where he once was a slave. He preached in Ireland for 40 years, and he is credited with converting the entire nation, one kingdom at a time. He used everyday things to explain complex theological ideas (example: using a shamrock to explain the Trinity), and the rite he started (Celtic) lasted 200 years until the Synod of Whitby.

Western civilization owes a debt of gratitude to him as some of the monasteries founded by some of his converts became places where many manuscripts from antiquity were copied and preserved as mainland Europe was in a state of flux following the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire. Thomas Cahill wrote a book on the subject (How the Irish Saved Civilization), and I had the blessing to see one of those manuscripts, the Book of Kells, in the library at Trinity College when I was in Ireland 24 years ago. In the case of the Book of Kells, it is an illuminated manuscript, which means that it is also beautifully illustrated and as much of an art piece as it is a book. All of this was possible because of God calling one man who chose to return to the place where he had been a slave and working in the heart of that man to bring the Light of Christ to the people there. Our God is amazing.

Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant St. Patrick, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP, p.250)
-Jen McCabe