Today is the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick in the year 493. In a way, it is ironic that this date which is so intimately associated with a man born in Scotland to parents of Romano-Gallic descent should be the modern symbol of Irish heritage. Nevertheless, it makes perfect sense when one considers what God did for the people of Ireland through Patrick.
Captured as a teen by a band of Irish raiders and sold into slavery, the young man spent several years tending his master's flocks and praying to God for deliverance. He later wrote of the experience: "the love of God and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me."
After about six years of captivity, God finally sent an angel to tell Patrick that it was time to leave. Even so, during those years, God had prepared him for a future mission to the people who had treated him as a slave. In that time, he learned their language and became familiar with their pagan Druid religion.
Then, after several more years of training within the Christian religion, God sent Patrick back to Ireland to bring them the message about Jesus Christ and God's Kingdom through him. As a consequence, the whole island was eventually converted to the Christian religion.
Through Patrick's story, we see that God sometimes allows us to experience things that we see as negative and tortuous, but God sees them as preparation for some purpose of His own. Indeed, we see in a sad chapter in the life of the "Apostle to the Irish" their ultimate redemption and salvation.
How mysterious are the ways of our God, and how wonderful are His works!
** Information and quotes taken from the article on St. Patrick in the Catholic Encyclopedia Online - http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11554a.htm