Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. ~St Patrick
He wasn’t born a saint – rather, Maewyn Succat was born a pagan near Scotland who didn’t give much mind to God at all. But something happened along the way after the young man was kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave to Irish taskmasters, enduring six years of horrible treatment at the hands of people who mocked and abused him. Faith found him as he wore the shackles and bore the constant threats of harm. He escaped and returned to his homeland, where that faith changed his name to “noble” – Patrick – only to then return years later to the very land that held him hostage, to share with his enemies the story of freedom. As he returned to a land now full of violence and given to human sacrifice, he said, “I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved — whatever may come my way.”
The years as a slave had taught him their culture, their language, their pride and their fears. And so he spoke to whoever would listen. He used shamrocks to teach them about the three-in-one trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He would take a stick and draw a cross in the center of the circles they would make in the dirt. They worshiped the sun – and he taught them how to worship the Son. He stayed there for years upon years, inviting them to the table and into conversation. He prayed with them and for them and for the nation so unlike his own. He was willing to risk it all for the sake of “the unspeakable glory of life everlasting.”
And it’s said at the end of his days were 365 churches formed in Ireland because of Patrick’s kindness and grace toward those who had been his enemies.
Remembering his story today makes me wonder how much good might be done if we would face our enemies with the same grace and kindness, if we would pray for those who find their delight in holding us hostage, if we would carve out crosses where others have drawn circles. If we would allow our name to become noble.
I wonder if I would be so willing to dwell with those have found pleasure in my harm or security in my enslavement, seeing them as worthy of honor and of a life worth saving. Today, I’m praying for my heart to say “yes.” Please let it say “yes.” I’m praying all our hearts will say “yes.”
That is why I cannot be silent—nor would it be good to do so—about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven. ~St Patrick
Are you brave enough to dwell in the presence of your enemies, to pull out the chair for them and invite them into a grace-filled conversation about the purpose of this life? Have you extended grace to those who have harmed you? I’d love to know your story.