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Swords into Plowshares is the blog of the Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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April 7, 2013

Peacemaking Travel Study Seminar in Northern Ireland: Reconciliation in the Celtic Context

Day 5: Following the path of Patrick

The chapel commemorating the place in Saul where St. Patrick established his first church

The chapel commemorating the place in Saul where St. Patrick established his first church

Post by Andy Gans, pastor of Fort King Presbyterian Church in Ocala, FL

Today was our day to venture through the beautiful countryside of Ireland as we visited the historical sites of St. Patrick.
Patrick was born in Northern Britain around 400AD and grew up in a Christian family. As a teenager he was kidnapped from a privileged lifestyle by an Irish raiding party and sold off as a shepherd slave in Ireland.
Patrick tended sheep on the slopes of Slemish Mountain and eventually, as a cold, hungry and isolated young man, rediscovered his Christian faith. Through a dream he believed that God told him to escape and after six years ran from his captivity, probably to the southeastern part of Ireland, where he found a ship and eventually returned home.
Following his experiences, Patrick was ordained and eventually became a Bishop. He never forgot his time in Ireland and in his dreams one night believed an Angel called Victoricus came to him asking him to return on a mission to save the Irish people. Patrick returned in 432 AD, founded the first church in Ireland at Saul, and went on to establish many of the main Christian sites in the  northern half of the island, including Armagh, which continues to be the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland. After his death, Patrick's remains were brought to the Hill of Down and buried on the site of what is now the Down Patrick Cathedral.
We learned that what made Patrick successful in sharing the Gospel with the pagan Irish people was his understanding of their culture and their gods. Patrick tried to find the commonalities in their beliefs instead of pointing out the differences. His openness and willingness to understand their stories allowed him to be accepted and heard by the native people. What great wisdom for us as we seek to share the peace and love of Jesus the Christ.

Categories: Nonviolence, Northern Ireland, Peace, Societal violence, Spirituality


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