We live in a time of the anti-hero. Too often, the good guys are the bad guys and vice versa. Celebrities are often held up as heroes, until we learn too much about them.
But to see a true hero, look at the real St. Patrick, who has a day dedicated in his honor. Unfortunately, many people only observe his holiday, March 17, by drinking themselves silly, which is totally contrary to the spirit of the man who Christianized Ireland.
In fact, Patrick shows what God can do through someone who is committed fully to Him.
Thomas Cahill, author of the book, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, notes that Patrick and the Irish came at the moment of a cultural cliff-hanger and played a key role in helping to save civilization.
In the 5th century, barbarians overran the Roman Empire---which was the repository of much of Western civilization---until it finally collapsed. Meanwhile, through the missionary work of Patrick (387-461), the gospel was brought to Ireland; and numerous men became monks as a result, who meticulously copied manuscripts of the Bible and of many of the writings of antiquity.
Cahill writes: “For, as the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on the Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of Western literature---everything they could lay their hands on.”
He notes, “These scribes then served as conduits through which the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian cultures were transmitted to the tribes of Europe, newly settled amid the rubble and ruined vineyards of the civilization they had overwhelmed.”
Cahill adds, “Without this Service of the Scribes, everything that happened subsequently would have been unthinkable. Without the Mission of the Irish Monks, who single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent in the bays and valleys of their exile, the world that came after then would have been an entirely different one---a world without books. And our own world would never have come to be.”
The man at the center of all this was St. Patrick.
Many of the details of his life we learn through a document he wrote late in his life, Confession. This was not a book of confessions of his sins, but rather a statement of his beliefs. It is autobiographical in nature.
Patrick (to the surprise of many) was not Irish by birth, but rather grew up in England as a nominal Christian. He said in Confession, “I did not know the true God.”