When he arrived in Munster, he came upon the holy boy Ailbe, who was praying in the open, gazing at heaven, who earnestly asked him to bring him the true faith, asying, "I pray that I may know the Creator of all, and believe in Him Who made heaven and earth and all creatures; since I know for certain that all of nature was made without human art and that no human craftsman could have created it."
- Anonymous, Life of Ailbe (Late Latin)
"And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him."
- Acts 17.26, 27
The Life of Ailbe presents the portrait of an important but little known figure of the days just before Patrick's arrival in Ireland. Ailbe was one of a handful of faithful leaders who were holding forth with little success against the paganism which was everywhere present. In his Life Ailbe is shown to have been set apart by God from the beginning. Even in his coming to faith in the Lord he is portrayed as an earnest seeker, who had become persuaded of the existence of God the Creator through his study of the world around him.
One of the more important aspects of the Celtic Christian effort between the 5th to the 9th century was the ability of missionaries and preachers to start where the people were and lead them through their own experience and culture to a saving knowledge of Christ. Celtic people prior to the coming of the Gospel had a keen respect for and love of the creation. They associated it with the spiritual world, which they populated with a panoply of gods to help them make sense out of their world.
But there must have been some, like Ailbe (at least, as he is portrayed in this late Life), who believed in a higher God than the pagan gods of the Celtic peoples, and whose hearts were being specially prepared to come to faith through the affirmation of God as Creator and Sovereign, and then as Redeemer and Lord.
Connecting with people where they are in order to lead them to a higher plane of life: It's something we all should learn to do. Since all people are created in the image of God, the sense of God is never very far from anyone. You will be surprised to learn that most of the people in your Personal Mission Field would be happy to talk with you about God and how they might know Him. They may resist at first, but since, in their heart of hearts, they know He really does exist (Rom. 1.18-20), what matters is that we be patient, persistent, and pleasant in helping them consider Him and think about the implications of Christ's saving work for their own lives.
We don't know how many people we see each week are praying earnestly in their souls for God to show Himself to them. He's not likely to send a message in a bottle or an angelic visitor to answer their requests. Instead, He is sending us. If we can only learn to pray for the people around us, and work hard at getting to know them and showing them the love of Jesus, opportunities for sharing with them will appear all at once, and they might go on for quite some time.
The more we grow in our relationship with the Lord, the more we will care about the eternal disposition of the people around us. Seek the Lord, and grow in Him. Let Him lead you to those who are open and ready to begin hearing the Good News about Jesus and His Kingdom.
And if you need help in growing, sign up for the course, Spiritual Maturity 1: Revival. The tuition is free. The materials are free (except for one small textbook). And you can study at your own pace. We'll even give you a Mentor if you like. Don't let a perceived lack of spiritual maturity keep you from the exciting calling of leading others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Take steps today to increase your growth in the Lord, and let us help, if we can.
Because as you grow in the Lord, you will be more effective at sensing the needs of others, and more capable at helping them consider the claims of Jesus and the promise of new life in Him.
And who knows, that person you lead to Jesus might turn out to be another Ailbe - or Patrick.
T. M. Moore, Principal