Many people are more familiar with the modern traditions of St. Patrick’s Day – green face paint, corned beef with cabbage, parades and pints of celebration – than with the man and mission behind the holiday. So, what was St. Patrick’s ONE Thing, and how did being kidnapped affect his focus?
The Early Life of St. Patrick
A good deal is known about the life of St. Patrick because he penned an autobiography before his death on March 17, 461 A.D. In it he recounts being born to an aristocratic family able to live a life of ease… that is until the age of 16, when he was abducted by a group of Irish raiders and taken to Ireland to work the land as a sheepherder.
During this period of fear and isolation he turned inward for the first time. Though prior to being captured St. Patrick had never put much emphasis on spirituality, his focus on who he was and where he came from changed him. It was here that he found his own spirituality, which kept him grounded and with vision during such a difficult time.
When faced with adversity that changes a person’s life, spirituality has been found to play a key role in helping people structure their identity. However, this inward reflection and self-discovery process can provide strength and understanding beneficial even for those that haven’t lived through a traumatic event.
Spreading the Catholic Faith Becomes St. Patrick’s ONE Thing
St. Patrick eventually became a devout Christian and then Catholic, after attributing his connection with spirituality to his escape from slavery. After returning to his family in Britain, St. Patrick’s spiritual connection continued as did his thoughts of Ireland. In his autobiography, St. Patrick said that his connection led to the revelation to return to Ireland as a missionary.
He put all his energies into religious study for more than 15 years, eventually becoming a priest and a bishop. It was then that he set out for Ireland once again. Though he did not introduce Christianity to Ireland, he did play an integral role in spreading the teachings of Catholicism and building churches across the country. He blended his spiritual beliefs with those of the Irish culture as a way to connect with the people. His efforts worked and even led to the creation of what’s known today as the Celtic cross.
Just as he had made his way hundreds of miles to escape years before, St. Patrick traveled throughout Ireland to carry out his spiritual mission until the day he died. St. Patrick’s focus and dedication to his ONE Thing became legend after his death, helping to further his cause for centuries. Because of his ONE Thing St. Patrick is now a symbol of the Catholic faith and the Irish people.
This St. Patrick’s Day take some time to reflect on your own ONE Thing. Or, like St. Patrick, maybe you haven’t figured out what your ONE Thing is yet. If you’re having difficulty, follow in Old St. Patty’s footsteps: use our purpose worksheet to help you find your ONE Thing.