St. Patrick’s Long Loneliness

by | Mar 15, 2017 | 4 Hunger & Thirst

St. Patrick’s Breastplate (short form).

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

St. Patrick’s Lonely Place

Young Patrick sat on a lush Irish hillside chewing bilberry and lamb’s lettuce snagged from the brush moments before as he patrolled the sheep. Turning over berries and leaves in his mouth, he turned over memories and meanings in his mind. Bleating sheep and the small voices and rustling sounds of a few meadow pipits stirred the wide silence.
Raised a Christian in Britain just a century after Christianity went from persecution to power in the Roman Empire, it seemed fair enough to mouth the creed and play along with the rites of church. But just before his sixteenth birthday almost three years ago, raiders kidnapped and sold him into slavery in Ireland.
So here under vast blue sky with untold years of slavery before him, all his Latin and grammar lessons came to nothing among people with no written language and no clue about Christianity. If God intended to leave him homesick in a land of ruffians who see him as a thing to use, he might as well live alone with dumb sheep.
Who knows the turning in his mind, perhaps from desperate prayers to sullen recalcitrance before God’s cold silence? Who knows his heart’s turning that somehow warmed him not only to God but to his captors?
It sufficed to draw him into conversation with the Irish and learn the tongue. Thus, he heard rumors of a way to escape back to Britain. Which he did.

St. Patrick’s Return

Back home, the main question came clear: Who knows how God worked in St. Patrick’s long loneliness? From where did this hungering and thirsting come for a palpable God to whom dry creeds refer? Moreover, from where did his hungering and thirsting come to share his hungering and thirsting with the very brutes who once stole him away from civilization?
Yet, exactly that came of the long loneliness. Many celebrate St. Patrick’s life with green beer and parades, and why not? But if you want to put your spirit in it, recall that Ireland first loved this man in gratitude for sharing the fruits of his long loneliness.
He brought them his hungering and thirsting for a right relationship with God and started a contagion. He wanted them to know the love that set him free on rolling green hills under a wide sky long before he ever caught wind of a way out of slavery.
Consider your long loneliness. Is it past? Now underway? Consider what brought you there. What did God do with you there? What is God doing?
Consider your hunger and thirst. Did you redirect it from God toward something more manageable? Or did you make peace with wonder at and love for the one God unseen beyond the wide sky, within your hungry heart, and in the face of your enemy in need?
Where will you go from your long loneliness?

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Encouraging Paradoxes of the Dark Night
 

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