Things About Saint Patrick You Never Knew

Maewyn Succat’s spiritual legacy is both ironic and inspirational. Born to a faithful Christian family around A.D. 385 in Scotland, as a young man he was kidnapped, smuggled to Ireland, and sold as a slave to a cattle and swine herder.

At the time of his capture, around the age of 15, Succat wasn't a follower of Jesus—he was filled with lust, hate, and deceit, and he ignored the loving influence of his father, a respected church leader. Succat came to believe his selfishness doomed him, later writing about his capture, “It was according to our deserts, because we drew back from God and kept not His precepts.”

But during his six years of harsh captivity, wearing rags for clothing and with little shelter from pounding rains and frigid nights, Succat gave his life to God. During those long evenings of hunger and suffering, he would remember the gentle voices of his mother and father urging him to follow Jesus. And at last, he realized there was something more to life than just himself.

Gazing into the starry heavens, Succat prayed to God on the evening of his conversion, “I will arise, and go to my Father." Soon after, he escaped captivity and returned to his homeland, ready to follow heaven’s call. Invigorated by his new devotion, Succat found and joined a church whose voice in history has largely been lost.

Against the grain of the day’s religious teachings, the Celtic Church not only kept the Sabbath as holy, they followed God’s health laws and practiced baptism by immersion. They believed God’s law was paramount, and they gave their allegiance to Christ alone. They believed there was no difference between obeying the law and ultimate morality; faithfully obeying God’s Word was the sign of a Christian's love and devotion.

Succat quickly rose in the ranks of this church, fighting against the onset of paganism from the outlying Briton isles and Europe. Sometime in his late twenties, he began to dream of the green island he once called home. He dreamed of how the heathens there suffered under economic and spiritual poverty—and eventually he believed God was calling him to return to Erin, which once held him prisoner, to set it free with His Word. The faithful convert followed without hesitation.

Succat Returns to the Emerald Island

The conversion of the island is both baffling and miraculous. Succat led a band of likeminded believers to the isle, establishing churches that would glorify the kingdom of God by expressing their faith through obedience. Queen Margaret wrote about this and other “peculiar” practices of the growing Celtic Church, complaining '”They are accustomed … to neglect reverence for [Sundays].”

Though the major religious leaders of the day threatened and cajoled allegiance to their doctrines, Succat’s church continually turned these temptations away. As a result, Succat is believed to be directly responsible for the establishment of more than 350 churches and the conversion of 120,000 souls.

In the centuries to follow, Succat’s legacy as a faithful Sabbath-keeper would be shrouded with half-truths and mysticism due to the eventual overthrow of the Celtic Church. Indeed, the ire of all of Europe eventually besieged the tiny, peculiar island until it capitulated and adopted more culturally acceptable norms under force.

Succat is still revered and celebrated as few others—he is as much a cultural icon today as he was when he conquered a nation for Christ. Sadly, the deeper truths behind his powerful work is twisted, but that doesn’t mean the truth can’t be told. It’s a lesson we ought to remember: Led by Succat’s faithfulness, Ireland prospered in peace for centuries as it followed God’s guiding hand. After it incorporated false doctrines and practices, it fell into despair and was subjugated by oppression and cruelty.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, Succat is better known by the name St. Patrick of Ireland.

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