Patricius grew up in England in the 5th century, and when he was 16 years old, Irish raiders invaded his village, burned his town, and carried him off to Ireland and sold him as a slave to a pagan tribal chief.
And over the next six years, as he served as a slave and spent time in pastoral settings among the sheep, he developed a genuine faith in God—not the nominal faith he had grown up with--praying more than a hundred prayers a day. He got to know his captors, and even came to see himself as being one of them in many ways. Six years later a ship appeared, carrying him back to England to be with his family.
Several years later, would pass, and Patricius later wrote about what happened to him. He said, "I had a vision in my dreams of a man who seemed to come from Ireland," Patricius wrote. "His name was Victoricius, and he carried countless letters, one of which he handed over to me. I read aloud where it began: 'The Voice of the Irish.' And as I began to read these words, I seemed to hear the voice of the same men who lived beside the forest of Foclut … and they cried out as with one voice, 'We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.' I was deeply moved in heart and I could read no further, so I awoke."
And so he went back, voluntarily, to Ireland, to the very people who had enslaved him. And there he lived among them, sharing Christ with them, for though they had enslaved others, they themselves were enslaved to druidery, witchcraft, spells, and violence.
There is a story that the high king of the island, Loiguire, had forbidden any to light fires on the island one night on the penalty of death, honoring the pagan tradition of the fireless night. A massive bonfire was to then be lit on the eve of Spring, in the presence and at the command of the High King, who was believed to have the power of a god to usher in Spring.
But Patricius lit the fire, confident in the higher power of God. And the king, recognizing this higher power, relented.
Patricius would go on to share Christ with this people, freeing them from their slavery and sin, baptizing thousands into Christ. This missionary would later become known as Patrick of Ireland. He was really from England, but he so identified with the people of Ireland and shared Christ with them, that he became known as one of them.
The song Be Thou My Vision was written using an 8th Irish song, with lyrics that are based on this story of Patrick and the vision that he had to reach out to them and sacrifice himself for others, just as Christ, the true high king of heaven and the ultimate servant, sacrificed himself for us.
All sin is addictive. All sin enslaves us. All sin leads us down a path that we don’t want to go. But Christ died to free us from sin, slavery, and death. And we are freed from this slavery to willingly and freely serve God and others.
The apostle Paul wrote, "For [Christ] rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).
What do you think of the story of Patricius? What can we learn from this story about sin, slavery, and sacrifice for others?