From slave to saint

David Epps's picture

Imagine that you are, in the eyes of your superiors, inadequately educated, without the necessary social skills and political graces, in the later years of your life, and you have been given an assignment that falls to you only because the boss’s first choice died unexpectedly. No one expects you to succeed but a warm body must be thrown into the breach.

In this true story, the reason that the person in question was poorly educated was, quite literally, no fault of his own.

When but a young person, he was abducted — kidnapped — and forced to do menial labor in a foreign country. He was separated from his family and his nation for several years. One night he decided to escape. He knew the penalty, if he were caught, would be severe. Nevertheless, the person, who was now a young man, in a story that was an adventure in itself, made his way across the country, found passage across the waters, and eventually arrived home.

He returned to school, where he did not excel, having been handicapped by so many years in captivity, and entered the ministry. He was a faithful man without aspirations for any higher office. With the passage of time, he found himself as a priest in Rome.

When a missionary was sent to a certain foreign land, the old priest wished it were him. He longed to spend the remainder of his life in service to God doing something meaningful. Unexpectedly, the man who was originally given the assignment died and, just as unexpectedly, the priest who had been overlooked by most was given the assignment. Patrick was being sent to Ireland.

Patrick was an English youth when he was captured by Irish raiders. Separated by his home, his family, and his country, he languished in the hills of Ireland tending sheep for his master. There were many nights when he though he would freeze to death, being inadequately clothed, and food was always in short supply. He thought continually of home and, in those isolated hills, he prayed to God.

One night, during this time of prayer, he sensed that it was time to go and to go now. Obeying this inner prodding, Patrick slipped away in the night and returned to England.

The years passed and, quite to the priest’s surprise, the Pope was sending Patrick, now in his 50s and a very old man by the standards of the time, back to the land of his enslavement to preach the Gospel and to establish the Church in this wild, untamed land. The rest, as they say, is history.

If one puts any stock in the legends and hagiology (the literature dealing with the lives of the saints), Patrick’s life and ministry were filled with profound miracles and with powerful demonstrations of God’s power.

If one discounts the legends and disbelieves the stories of Patrick’s life, one thing still remains clear — Patrick converted Ireland to Christianity.

Someone once said that, “You can take a faithful man and make him able but you cannot necessarily take an able man and make him faithful.”

Patrick, known today at Saint Patrick, was handicapped by his life experiences, never received the type of education he desired, and he was old in a day when a man in his 50s was ancient. He was, however, a man of faith and a faithful man.

Such a person, submitted to God, can live a life that makes a difference. Such a person might just even change a nation. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]