Secular heroes are remembered for their great accomplishments; Christian heroes for what God accomplished through them. Not least among the latter is St. Patrick, the British slave turned missionary to Ireland, of whom little is known besides the fact that he led thousands of pagan souls to faith in Jesus Christ.
What more do we need to know? While Patrick's faithfulness bears witness to the truth of the Gospel he preached, and while he is an excellent role model for all of us, what's most important is that God used him to spread his salvation and glory throughout a lost and spiritual blind nation.
Michael J. McHugh's The Life and Legacy of Saint Patrick certainly focuses on this aspect of Patrick's life. Recording the known facts of the Saint's life and work in story form, McHugh shows the context in which Patrick lived, the spiritual darkness of Ireland under the pagan Druids, and the harsh realities of missionary work in a hostile culture.
In many ways, this is more like a novel than a biography. McHugh's narrative is packed with dialogue and descriptions of setting and characters that are straight from his own imagination as he reconstructs events. He's a decent writer, which helps, though it's hard to take some of his anachronisms seriously (a young boy named Thomas is referred to as "Tommy" for instance).
However, beautiful full-color photographs and maps (along with black and white drawings) keep us grounded, and remind us that this is an historical narrative about a real person. Also, much of what Patrick (or Patricius, as he was originally called) witnessed and experienced is clearly nonfiction, like the human sacrifice of a slave girl and the horrors of slavery.
Patrick was raised in a Christian home, as a youth was kidnapped by a Celtic warrior king, spent many years as a shepherd during which he put his faith in Christ for salvation, and eventually became a missionary among the very people who had enslaved and mistreated him. His story is not only inspirational, it's sobering and humbling for those of us who find it difficult to remain faithful witnesses to our Lord in a culture which doesn't forcibly oppose us.
While adults will probably get more from Jonathan Rogers's biography Saint Patrick, McHugh's The Life and Legacy of Saint Patrick is a good introduction to the saint's life for older readers, and one which will surely convict them. Godly role models are what's needed for Christian youth to imitate, and St. Patrick was among the most godly of Christ's warriors.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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