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Saint Patrick will be celebrated and remembered, but unfortunately, not many will truly understand how important and great a historical figure he really is, and the reasons for his greatness. Saint Patrick brought the Christian Church to Ireland. As Saint Patrick himself describes, before his arrival and works in Ireland, the country ’never had the knowledge of God’ and ’always adored idols and things unclean’. Ireland was a nation of pagans, and the ruling powers were extremely hostile toward Saint Patrick and his efforts of spreading the truth of Christianity throughout Ireland and establishing the Church there. Patrick essentially had to do battle with these pagan rulers. How did he succeed? Patrick performed miracles.

In part six of his book MYSTICS AND MIRACLES, author Bert Ghezzi describes the key to Saint Patrick’s success and effectively summarizes his great accomplishment in history:

"The pivotal event in St. Patrick’s ministry occurred in the spring of 433. He was determined to win the support of High-King Laoghaire, the powerful ruler of central Ireland, whose blessing would open doors for him everywhere. His resolve to gain the king’s support precipitated a dramatic confrontation with leading druids. Patrick’s triumph over them in a contest of spiritual power versus magic secured the success of his mission at its outset.... It happened on the night before Easter. Laoghaire was celebrating a pagan festival at Tara, his base in central Ireland. By law, no one in the land was permitted to kindle a fire until the ceremonial beacon on Royal Hill was lit. Miles away atop the Hill of Slane, Patrick had gathered his followers for the Easter Vigil. Unaware of the prohibition against fires, Patrick opened the liturgy by striking the new fire, the vivid symbol of Christ’s resurrection.... King Laoghaire, his barons, and the druids saw Patrick’s paschal fire and were enraged. The druids, sensing imminent danger warned the king that he must extinguish the fire immediately. If not, said one prophetically, ’it will never be extinguished in Ireland. Moreover, it will outshine all the fires we light. And he who has kindled it will conquer us all.’ So the king and eight chariots full of warriors headed for Patrick’s camp.

Upon arrival the king summoned Patrick and demanded an explanation. Patrick responded with a simple summary of the gospel. When Drochu, a leading druid, made fun of the Christian mysteries, Patrick prayed aloud that he be punished. With that, Drochu was swooped high into the air and dropped to his death. The warriors then attempted to capture Patrick, but he prayed they would be scattered. A dark cloud and a whirlwind descended on them, causing a panic in which many perished.

The king cowered at this demonstration of might. In his fright, he made a pretense of acknowledging God and invited Patrick to speak about the Christian faith to his barons at Tara. Then he left Slane, planning to lie in wait to ambush Patrick and his associates. When Patrick and his band passed by, however, they were invisible to Laoghaire and his would-be assassins. As the Christians escaped, they chanted for the first time the saint’s famous Breastplate. The prayer calls upon the power of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the angels, and all of heaven against every conceivable danger. In the following years, Patrick would pray it often.

On Easter day, King Laoghaire held a banquet at Tara as part of the pagan religious festival. Patrick and five companions mystified the gathering by passing through locked doors and appearing in their midst. Invited to sit near the king, Patrick was then given a drink that lucat-Mael, the chief druid had laced with poison. Discerning the mischief, Patrick made a sign of the cross over the cup, and the beverage froze, except for the drop of poison. Everyone watched as Patrick poured it on the table. He blessed the cup again, and his drink returned to normal.

After this humiliation before his peers, Lucat-Mael sought to redeem himself. He challenged Patrick to a public contest of wonders on the plain of Tara, where many Irish could watch. First, the druid is said to have magically filled the plain with waist-high snow. ’We see the snow,’ said Patrick. ’Now, remove it.’ ’I cannot until tomorrow,’ said the druid. ’Then you are powerful for evil, but not for good. Not so with me,’ said Patrick. He stretched out his hands, once again, carving a cross in the air. Instantly, the snow disappeared without a trace. The crowd cheered. For his next magical stunt, the druid shrouded the plain in total darkness. Once again he was unable to reverse his trick until the next day. Patrick prayed and with a blessing dismissed the darkness. This time, the onlookers erupted with praise for Patrick’s God.

To settle the issue once and for all, Patrick proposed the third contest, a trial by fire. The druid, covered by Patrick’s cloak, would be locked in a hut made of freshly sawed wood, Benignus, Patrick’s young disciple, would be clothed in Lucat-Mael’s cloak and placed in a hut of dry wood. Then both huts would be burned to the ground. All accepted the terms, and with the two men in place, the huts were torched. This test had a marvelous outcome. Flames consumed the hut of new wood and the druid, but Patrick’s cloak was not even singed. Benignus and his hut remained untouched by the fire, but Lucat-Mael’s cloak was burned to ashes.

Patrick’s miraculous encounters with the druids were so spectacular that modern historians discount them as legends. But as extraordinary as the miracles were, the earliest documents reported them as facts. Patrick’s wonders set the stage for the conversion of Ireland. Why should he not have expected divine interventions at such significant moments in his missionary venture?

Even though Patrick had exposed the emptiness of Laoghaire’s religion, the ruler did not become a Christian. He made two decisions, however, that significantly advanced Patrick’s work. He gave Patrick permission to preach the gospel in Ireland, and he ensured Patrick’s personal safety.

From that time, Patrick crisscrossed the island, making disciples everywhere he went. In a relatively short time, he baptized tens of thousands of converts and built hundreds of churches, staffing them with Irish priests and deacons. He founded many monasteries and schools to care for the passionate youths who decided to follow him to Christ. In 444, scarcely a dozen years after Patrick arrived; he established Ireland’s first cathedral church at Armagh, which quickly became a center of Christian education and church administration.
By the time of Patrick’s death around 461, he had completely dislodged the ancient paganism. The whole island had become thoroughly and permanently Christian. Now that’s a miracle I challenge anyone to dismiss."

Ghezzi accurately names this chapter about Saint Patrick, "Miracles over Magic". In both their fiction and non-fiction writing J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis emphasize the great distinction between the two. The practice of magic is closer to technology, because its purpose and motivation is power over nature, and manipulation of it. A miracle, by contrast, has motivations in faith, and occurs as a result of humility to the rightful power and Creator of nature. Magic and technology are unnatural whereas miracles are supernatural. The Creator has every right to alter his creation. And that was the source of Saint Patrick’s miraculous gifts: his humble belief and dedication to Christ, the Creator.

Ghezzi also makes a great point about the modern historical view of Saint Patrick and how they dismiss certain parts of his history as legend simply because supernatural events were recorded. This same modern bias is applied against the history of Jesus Christ, and the greatest miracle recorded in history. After reading about these extraordinary events surrounding Saint Patrick, many influenced by the modern media might have the same reaction. Those who have such doubts, however, must ask themselves, on what basis can they separate natural historical events from supernatural historical events if they are both recorded as historical facts? Based on what authority can you deny the reality of historically reported miracles? Such denial is simply a modern bias. Science has no authority in the matter because science is limited to the natural world. The source of the miraculous is beyond the natural world, and therefore outside the limits and scope of science. One might argue that miracles are not likely, rational, or probable. In what context? Such probability only exists in a universe that is completely physical and natural, a purely material universe, where every physical law has a scientific and physical explanation. No one has come even close, nothing in science has come close, to proving that our universe is made up of only the physical and material. So again, without science and probability, on what basis can one dismiss a miracle reported as legitimate history?

Ghezzi makes the greatest argument of all for the reality of the miraculous events surrounding Saint Patrick by pointing out the unlikely result: Saint Patrick’s success. That in itself is a miracle. So, one must ask, how could have Patrick succeeded if these miracles were not true? The historical logic of Saint Patrick’s great success requires the reality of the miraculous events. Saint Thomas Aquinas made the same argument about the growth and endurance of the Church as an unlikely historical result without the reality of the miracles of Christ, and the ultimate miracle, the Resurrection.

On what basis can one deny these historical miracles? There is no logical basis, miracles are logical events. A man walking on water is not a logical contradiction. Now, a man walking on water and not walking on water at the same time, that would be a contradiction. The miraculous event itself is not. The miraculous event is logical.

One cannot deny the reality of these miracles based on science. Science contains a built-in bias toward the miraculous or any supernatural event; against any event that is explained by anything outside the physical world. To put it simply, science is too limited, its scope too narrow. Therefore, to deny these miracles based on science would be arguing in a circle, begging the question. Science and its very method of proof is based on a presupposition. It assumes that only the physical world exists, that our universe is a physical one. The scientific method presupposes nothing exists outside of the physical dimension. To attempt, therefore, to deny these miracles based on science is to in effect argue that, ‘these miracles didn’t happen because miracles don’t happen’. The problem is, science and its very method of proof cannot prove its own assumption. As C.S. Lewis points out in his book MIRACLES, an argument using probability shares the same materialist assumption. And, an argument from experience is simply an arrogant one in the context of the history of mankind and the vastness of our universe, unless the one making the argument is also claiming to be omnipotent.

Considering that there is no reasonable basis on which to deny these historical miracles took place, on what basis do modern skeptics and our secular culture deny them? They have none. Yet they use this baseless denial, this philosophy of negation, to deny the existence of the spirit, the soul, and God our Creator leading to a culture with no objective morality, no moral basis for our laws, and no respect for life


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Mar. 22nd, 2010 09:37 pm (UTC)
St. Patrick's Breastplate
"Prayer for God's Protection and Christ's Presence As I arise today, may the strength of God pilot me, the power of God uphold me, the wisdom of God guide me. May the eye of God look before me, the ear of God hear me, the word of God speak for me. May the hand of God protect me, the way of God lie before me, the shield... ...of God defend me, the host of God save me. May Christ shield me today...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, Christ when I stand, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen." -Saint Patrick's Breastplate
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