One of my very favorite read-aloud books is this one here: I Heard Good News Today by Cornelia Lehn. It begins with Mary Magdalene running from the tomb to tell of the risen Christ and calls her the very first missionary. What a wonderful thought! And then through 93 stories, it shows how the gospel moved through each continent, highlighting the work of individual missionaries. This book is fantastic and I highly recommend ordering it today and putting it in someone’s Easter Basket. It’s a book that reminds us of the call of Christ and to be brave with our lives.
Below is the story of Saint Patrick, word-for-word from the book. I will say this is the scariest of all the stories, but it has the most remarkable ending. And in the midst of Lucky Charms, green milk, and leprechaun traps, I think it is worth everyone’s while to know the true story of this day and the fire that burned in Saint Patrick to share the good news to a lost people.
(Excerpted directly from the book, by Cornelia Lehn:)
In England around the year 400 there lived a very happy boy his name was Patricius Sucatus but for sure he was called Sucat.
Sucat had parents who loved him and who were Christians. They had a lovely home. There were large fields and a wooded area where Sucat could play and do whatever he liked.
Often Sucat sat under a tree and dreamed about what he would do when he was grown up. Would he become a farmer? A hunter? Or perhaps a businessman? But one day when Sucat was 16 years old something happened that changed his whole life. It started as a very ordinary day. Sucat told his mother and father after breakfast that he was going hunting in the woods behind their house. He took his bow and arrow and ran lightly down the trail into the forest. All was quiet. He stopped and listened. He looked to the ground to see if he could find the foot prints of a deer.
Suddenly someone from behind grabbed him. Sucat it was a strong healthy boy, but he could not free himself. Several men held him as in a vice. Sucat did not know them. No matter how hard he struggled, they would not let him go. The men were pirates from the east coast of Ireland who had come to England to look for boys whom they could sell as slaves.
Sucat could not even say goodbye to his parents. They did not know what had happened to him. The Pirates bound his hands and dragged him off to their ship where they threw him into the dark hold below. Many other boys whom the Pirates had stolen were there. Sucat was dazed. He could not believe this had happened. One moment he was running around in the woods, a carefree boy, and the next he was to be sold as a slave.
When the ship reached Ireland, the boys, all chained together, were yanked off the ship and dragged ashore. There they were taken to a slave market.
It did not take long until and Irish chieftain bought Sucat. “What is your name?” he growled roughly. “Patricius Suctus,” said the boy proudly. “Well, from now on your name is Patrick,” said the man, “and you will tend my pigs.”
So Patrick took care of his master’s pigs. There was nothing else he could do. Often as he walked back and forth taking feed and water to them he thought, “Is this what I will do all my life?” He was very homesick for his parents and the life he had left behind.
One day a big storm came up. Thunder rolled across the sky and the lightning zigzagged everywhere. As Patrick was watching the beautiful sight, to his amazement he saw the other servants, who were Irish, huddled together with a look of terror on their faces. “What is the matter?” asked Patrick. “The storm shows that the gods are angry with us,” whispered on of the men. “We must not have honored them enough. They might kill us!”
“Your gods are angry?” asked Patrick surprised. “Yes,” said another. “The priest tells us we have not brought enough food as offering. We brought all we could- our children don’t have enough to eat as it is. But if the gods will only spare us today, we will bring all we have.”
“But, but,” stuttered Patrick, “the God I know is kind and good.” “Not our gods, ” said another of the men. “They don’t care what happens to us. I hate them, but I have to do as the priest says or else I don’t know what the gods will do to my family. They might all die.”
The storm was slowly moving away and Patrick had to look after the pigs so he could not stay to talk. But that night he lay awake and really thought about God- the God who had made heaven and earth. The only God. The God who loved the whole world so much that he sent his own Son to earth to show people what he was like.
Suddenly Patrick realized how different the God he knew was from the gods the people around him believed in. He thought of Jesus, God’s Son, who had compassion with people and who healed the sick and fed the hungry. He thought of Jesus who had loved everybody so much that he was willing to die for them. Patrick felt as if Jesus’ love suddenly surrounded him in such a real way that from then on he talked to Jesus as his friend. He learned to love Jesus more and more.
As he learned to know Jesus, Patrick was also more concerned about the people around him. He talked with the other servants. He became friends with them and with his other neighbors. Now when he saw how afraid they were of their gods he wished with all his heart that they could learn to know Jesus.
Patrick began dreaming about how he could tell the people in Ireland about Jesus. But he was a slave. He could not move about as he wished. And he also needed to learn a lot more about God and about his Son himself. He longed to study the Bible. How could this ever happen? It seemed impossible that it ever would.
Six years went by. Finally one night Patrick had a perfect chance to escape. He grabbed his jacket and ran out of the house. He walked and walked and found a ship in the harbor. “Please take me on board,” he begged the captain. “My parents will pay you when I get home.”
That is how it happened. Patrick came home at last and was reunited with his parents. However, Patrick did not forget his friends in Ireland. He did not forget his dream of telling them about the God of love and compassion. Now he knew that he wanted with his life. He went to school to study the Bible and after several years he went to Ireland as a missionary.
Patrick stayed in Ireland all the rest of his life and when he died many people believed in Christ. The Irish people loved Patrick so much that to this day throughout the whole world they honor him when they celebrate Saint Patricks’ Day on March 17.