Occasionally when we review history, we discover a man of faith who transformed culture rather than reading about civilizations reformed through bloodshed. In Patrick we witness a man determined to listen to the voice of God, willing to be misunderstood, and courageous enough to give others his heart and soul.
Author Thomas Cahill aptly describes key figures of influence in the Western world as “the story of … the great gift-givers, arriving in the moment of crisis, [providing] for transition, for transformation, and even for transfiguration, leaving us a world more varied and complex, more awesome and delightful, more beautiful and strong than the one they had found.”
Patrick certainly fits this description.
But while the title of saint is honoring and celebrative, it doesn’t imply perfection. The term saint can be complicated and sometimes misunderstood. In the Catholic tradition, before a person can officially be declared a saint, the church puts him or her through an evaluation process, and specific criteria must be met. Specific saints are then identified as those whose lives are worth remembering and imitating.
In a general sense, however, everyone who surrenders their will to God and puts their faith in Jesus is brought from death to life and becomes a saint. The apostle Paul even used the word when describing different roles in the church: “[God] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Sainthood, in its essence, describes a person who has been set apart for the purposes of godliness. So if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, you fit the bill.
But I assume you don’t do it perfectly.
Patrick was just like you and me. We are all sinners. Failures. We all miss moral targets.
And we are all recipients of grace.
Patrick refused to let the shame of sin hold him back from serving the people God called him to. He trusted the grace of God and pressed on. His view of strength originated not in his manhood but in a Trinitarian being, all-powerful and sovereign.
When we put our trust in the Divine, we can break free from the bondage of our regrets and lean into the love we long to give away.