This Day We Fight

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March 17, 2017

5 Lessons We Can Learn from St. Patrick about Spiritual Warfare

(This post was first published on March 17, 2015 and is being reprinted again today because I believe that it is the most important thing that we can say about St. Patrick, and for which to honor him on his Feast Day!)

Has anyone created a comic book or graphic novel,
St. Patrick: Demon Slayer?
If not, someone should.

Patrick, born in Britain — probably Scotland — around 385 A.D., went from being the teenage son of Roman British parents (some like to say “Italian”), to being kidnapped by wild Irish ruffians and brought to (Northern) Ireland as a slave. In captivity for six years, he worked as a shepherd, and according to Patrick’s own words in his confession (Confessio), this is where his conversion and relationship with Christ began:

And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

After God in a vision showed Patrick how to escape, he eventually returned to Britain and his parents. In The Confession he says that his family welcomed him back and pleaded with him that after all he had gone through not to go away from them again.

But in another vision from God, Patrick sees a man “whose name was Victoricus” who came from Ireland with letters for Patrick. He then heard the voice of the Irish saying, ” ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.”

After studying in Auxerre, France, Patrick was ordained, and then, in 432 A.D., made a missionary bishop to take the Gospel to the Irish as God had commanded him. In Ireland Patrick faced off against druids and other pagans, High Kings and brutal warlords, and a culture that was careless of human life in general and women in particular. As Mike Pettingill writes for The Gospel Coalition, “Patrick entered an Ireland full of paganism and idol worship. But just a few short decades after Patrick arrived, a healthy, Christ-honoring church was thriving.”

Some sneer, as in an article in the Huffington Post, that the claim that Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland is a lie — that there is no evidence that there ever were snakes there because Ireland is too cold for snakes. But the truth is that Patrick brought the light of Christ to Ireland, and drove the demonic forces of Satan out, building churches on top of ancient pagan sites and claiming the land for the Triune God he served. That is why we can learn much about spiritual warfare from this great saint and missionary who mobilized an entire country to become missionaries. Here are just 5 of those things we can learn from Saint Patrick about spiritual warfare:

Forgive. Even though the Irish had kidnapped Patrick and made him a slave, God gave him compassion for them. He forgave them, and had the love of Christ for them — which gave him the passion to see them free from bondage to Satan.

Be well prepared when you face demonic forces. The Lorica, or the prayer that is known as The Breastplate of Saint Patrick, is like the secret weapon of spiritual warfare. Catholic Online says this prayer “was composed as he prepared for his most important battle against the paganism of the Druids.” From beginning to end in this prayer, Patrick acknowledges his dependence on God. Reminiscent of Paul’s exhortation to put on the full armor of God in order to stand firm against the Devil, the prayer says, “I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.”

The prayer’s most well known lines declare:

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 sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

Remember to pray for the faithful as well. Patrick wasn’t just Bishop Patrick: Demon Slayer. He was also a shepherd to the flock in Ireland, which grew exponentially in his lifetime and beyond. He was an evangelist, a missionary, and a pastor. He promoted literacy and education. For the Christian community he prayed:

May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
– Against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

Your obedience to God can have results that you can’t even imagine. When Patrick said yes to God, and went back to Ireland, he had no idea of what God had in store. Without Patrick there would not have been the concept of the Irish “saving civilization,” or Ireland being the land of poets, scholars, and saints. Without Patrick, there would not have been a stream of Irish missionaries carrying the Gospel all over the world. Says, Pettingill, “The Irish church was so strong that in the centuries to come it would send missionaries to evangelize much of continental Europe. Patrick’s legacy lives on through the countless spiritual grandchildren he left to continue his work.”

According to Pastor Brad Abley, 120,000 Irish were converted to Christ through the evangelism of Patrick, and he established 300 churches and a monastery. Abley continues, “From that monastery, Columba, an Irishman, was sent to convert the Northern part of England.” The ripples continue to spread, even today.

And the Number One lesson we can learn from Saint Patrick about spiritual warfare is: There is no High King but King Jesus. 

In a devotional on their website, Irish Christian band Rend Collective retell the story of Patrick facing off against the High King of Tara. Like many of the Irish High Kings and other warlords in Patrick’s time, the High King of Tara, says Rend Collective, “surrendered his armies and surrendered his heart, in awe of St. Patrick’s God” when the King’s troops were not able to extinguish Patrick’s Easter Vigil bonfire, burning at the same time as the pagan King’s druid festival bonfire.

In the same way, today, although we fear the evil that threatens the lives and communities of Christians all over the world, in forms such as ISIS, Boko Haram, the North Korean, Iranian, the Islamist Sudanese regime, and others, we must remember that no power of hell can stand against Christ’s kingdom. There is no Caliph, no jihadi, no Dear Leader, no President, no King, who is like our High King of Heaven, Jesus Christ.


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