Growing up in a fairly prominent Christian family, in Roman Britain around the 5th century, Patrick was kidnapped at 16 yrs old, taken to Ireland and sold as a slave to a farmer. It wasn't until then that he really began to get serious with God, and God began to do a deep work in his life as he spent long days alone, as a shepherd.
After six years as a slave, he heard a voice*
tell him that he would soon go home and that his ship was ready. Not
knowing where he was or which direction to go, he was able to
miraculously escape, find the ship, make a 28 day track across a
desolate wilderness on the verge of starvation, and return home safely.
Having arrived home, he studied Christianity and became a bishop, but
then God gave him a vision to return to Ireland and share the Gospel
with his former captors. With virtually no support, Patrick became the
first Christian missionary to Ireland.#
How the Irish Saved Civilization
by Thomas Cahill lends a whole new perspective on the impact St.
Patrick has had, not just in Ireland, but the Western world as a whole.
Cahill traces their mass conversion to Christianity and with the
development of monasteries, how the Irish preserved Western culture by
learning Greek and Latin, copying manuscripts, both pagan and Christian,
while the rest of Europe was being overrun by barbarians who seemed to
rather enjoy torching every library they could find.
Ireland grew up as "the isle of saints and scholars." For those of us
who appreciate Western civilization, we can thank God for saving and
rescuing Patrick, and sending him to evangelize our heathen ancestors,
if you're an atheist, well, you can just thank your lucky stars, and
maybe consider what your life might have been like, without all the
*Come on, who are we kidding, we all know it was God talking to him, not the sheep. :)
Cahill does an excellent job connecting St. Patrick to Western
civilization, but his book is not 100% accurate in some of the minor
details, for example, he claims that Patrick was the first missionary
since the first century, but Wikipedia,
lists at least five other Christian missionaries, Ulfilas (311 – 383),
Pantaenus (died 200), Frumentius (383), Denis (third century), and
David of Basra (300). This list is probably not a complete one, but it
is enough to show that there were others.