The Celtic Revival: Patrick (19)
He keeps Christ’s blessed commandments in all things,
his bright deeds shine forth among men;
and they follow his holy miraculous example,
so that they too magnify God the Father in heaven.
- Sechnaill, on Patrick, Audite Omnes Amantes, Irish, 5th century
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
- Matthew 5.16
Patrick is remembered and revered primarily as an evangelist, wandering up and down 5th-century Ireland, preaching the Gospel to peasants and princes alike, and gathering a harvest of “many thousands”, as he tells us in his Confession.
Certainly, Patrick did a great deal of preaching and evangelizing. But Patrick brought the Good News to the pagan Irish as much by his life as by his words. In fact, without the witness of his life, it’s doubtful Patrick would have had much success as a preacher.
Sechnaill outlined the pattern of that witness in this excerpt. Patrick kept the Law and Word of God. As a result, his good works were conspicuous, and he shone like a light of goodness and love. This encouraged others to follow him, and, as they did, to magnify the Name of God through their witness as well.
What Sechnall referred to as Patrick’s “bright deeds” included teaching literacy, paying the fee to liberate slaves, caring for widows and orphans, teaching and discipling untold numbers of Ireland’s sons and daughters, ordaining men to the ministry, sheltering women who devoted themselves to the service of God, and caring for the churches which sprang up under his ministry.
While Patrick could be stern – witness his Letter Against the Soldiers of Coroticus – he was typically gentle, selfless, humble, diligent, and always mindful of what he referred to as his “rusticity.”
Patrick’s witness for Christ was so powerful because it combined the clarity of Gospel preaching with the charity of everyday Kingdom living. If we try for one without the other, we will compromise our witness, misrepresent our King, and fail in our Kingdom calling.
We are to be witnesses for Christ (Acts 1.8), not just “go witnessing”. And we are to proclaim the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, not just ensconce ourselves safely within it against the threats of a dark and foreboding age.
And we are being witnesses for Christ when, in all the daily activities the Lord sends us to perform, and with all the people He puts in our lives, we do our work and speak our words as unto Him – without complaining, with diligence and excellence, and with a view to serving others (Col. 3.23, 24; 4.6).
We are called to be witnesses to Christ, and we must be ready, whenever the opportunity arises, to explain the hope we have in Him (1 Pet. 3.15).
But, like Patrick, and following the counsel of our Lord Himself, we must lead with bright deeds, shining works of everyday duty and service, selflessly and faithfully performed before that great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12. 1) and our contemporaries, who may begin to see in our attitude and demeanor something to provoke them to wonder about the hope they see in us.
And then perhaps some of them will follow our example and magnify Him with us, as the Irish and generations of Europeans for three-and-a-half centuries after Patrick did, because of the bright deeds he and those who followed him embodied in their lives and ministries.
Keep, shine, lead, magnify: What opportunities for such a witness await you today? Go to the Lord in prayer, and wait on His Spirit with that question in mind. Stay there until He makes it clear how you should shine His light into the lives of others. Prepare for your opportunities now, in meditation and prayer, and you’ll be more likely to make wise use of the time when you’re in it (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17; Eph. 5.15-17).
Psalm 90.12-15 (Landas: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place)
So teach us all our days to note that wisdom may be ours.
Return, O Lord, have pity on those servants who are Yours.
Each morning let Your love appear that we for joy may sing,
And make us glad for every day You us affliction bring.
O Christ, my Light and my Life, shine to me, and in me, and through me today as I…
A Legacy of Bright Deeds
Most people would be surprised to discover the considerable legacy of Patrick’s life and ministry. For nearly four centuries after his death, the Gospel spread and grew and brought the light of truth and love all over Ireland, Scotland, and significant parts of Europe. You can read about the impact of Patrick’s bright deeds in our book, The Legacy of Patrick (click here). Let Patrick challenge you to seek a legacy of witness through your daily service in God’s Name.
And may I encourage you to prayerfully seek the Lord about becoming a supporter of The Fellowship of Ailbe? It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate online through credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Dr., Essex Junction, VT 05452.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Carey, p. 152.