Book Release: SAINT PATRICK by Jonathan Rogers

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***Now Available in the Rabbit Room Store***

Ladies and gentlemen, our esteemed Rabbit Room contributor, Mr. Jonathan Rogers, has been toiling away for the past year (even going so far as to sequester himself alone in a mountain cabin) to deliver his latest book: a biography of the legendary Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick was, as far as we know, the first Christian missionary ever to take the gospel to barbarians beyond the borders of the Roman Empire. This biography looks at what motivated a son of Roman privilege to minister to the very people who had kidnapped and enslaved him in his youth—and examines why the Irish found his vision of the gospel so compelling

Below is an excerpt from the introduction to Saint Patrick.. Read it. And then support Jonathan and his family by buying it.

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patrick_coverAccording to legend, the man we know today as Saint Patrick was embarking on a ship bound for Ireland, when a leper accosted him. The outcast begged the holy man to let him come on the journey. Ever compassionate, Patrick was willing to let him come aboard. But the sailors and passengers would have none of it. Not only was the ship already full, but the leprous man “would be to them all at once an encumbrance and a horror.”

Patrick offered a solution that was both surprising and entirely characteristic of the saint of legend. He had with him a stone altar, a gift from the pope himself, which he threw into the sea, and there it floated. He then instructed the leper to sit on the altar. When the ship sailed, the altar sailed beside it, all the way across the Irish Sea. When the vessel landed in Ireland, so did the leper and his makeshift boat. Patrick praised God, and the sailors’ and passengers’ stony hearts were transformed into hearts of compassion and charity.

This story is typical of the body of legend that grew up around Saint Patrick. The saint’s compassion for the downtrodden is on full display. A former slave himself, Patrick was more attuned than most—even most saints—to matters of social justice. But even more uniquely Patrician is the sense of holy mirth that pervades the story. It’s funny, that picture of a man riding a stone altar across the sea. There is more than simple humor happening here, however. This is divine comedy. In a comic reversal, the leper enjoys a first-class berth—borne along on the mercy seat, you might say—while those who rejected him look on from the crowded deck….

A remarkable number of the Patrick legends are comic, portraying the saint as a man you would enjoy being around. Consider, by contrast, Patrick’s contemporary, Saint Augustine, with his towering intellect and moral and theological precision. You can’t help respecting the man, but you wouldn’t necessarily want him at your Christmas party. Of the Patrick legends, nineteenth-century Irish poet Aubrey de Vere wrote, “Their predominant character is their brightness and gladsomeness.”…

Some of the comic reversals in the Patrick legends are truly outlandish. In one tale, Patrick and his disciples were passing by a sepulchre “of wondrous length,” so big that Patrick’s followers refused to believe that any man could be buried there. Patrick, to prove that there was indeed a man in the tomb, prayed to bring him back to life. “Then stood one before them horrible in stature and in aspect.” This terrifying giant broke down weeping at the sight of Patrick, the man who had released him from the torments of hell. He then begged to join Patrick’s retinue, but Patrick refused him, fearful that no one could stand to look on such a terrifying figure as that “man of gigantic stature.” The saint did, however, invite the giant to believe in the triune God and thus escape hell permanently. The giant believed, was baptized, died again, and was buried, this time to rest in peace.

The monstrous, the horrible, the barbaric folded into the love of a God who laughs. The terrible giant weeping for joy at the sight of the saint who released him from his torments. This is the divine comedy that shaped the career not just of the Patrick we know from legend, but the Patrick we know from the historical record.

That historical record is admittedly brief. Everything we can reliably know of Patrick the man comes from two letters written by Patrick that, together, are fewer than twenty pages in length. Hard facts—in the form of specific dates and verifiable place names—are hard to come by in these two documents. But what Patrick’s letters lack in details of his outward life, they more than make up for in their portrait of his inner life. He wrote in the Confession, “I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.” And he did reveal himself—his motivations, his doubts, his desires, his fears, his affections—to a remarkable degree in these two documents.

Patrick revealed, among other things, that he believed the gospel he preached. He believed that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, Roman nor barbarian. He believed that God can utterly transform a human heart. He believed that he could rely entirely on God’s mercy, rather than being compelled to paper over his own sins. And he believed that even in the highly charged political atmosphere in which these letters were written and read, Christ was the defender of the weak—including Patrick himself.

Before Patrick, Christianity had never spread in any significant way outside the Roman Empire. Ireland was the first country ever to submit to the teachings of Christ without first submitting to the sword of Rome. It looked like a fool’s errand, this mission to convert a people as wild and uncouth and violent as the Irish. And yet before he was finished, Patrick had laid the foundation for the near total Christianization of the island. In How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill shows that, thanks to the work of Saint Patrick, Ireland grew civilized even while civilization elsewhere in Western Europe collapsed: “the land of Ireland was rushing even more rapidly from chaos to peace.”

The achievements of the historical Patrick were no less miraculous than those of the legendary Patrick. Perhaps the most miraculous thing of all was that, even as he brought the gospel of Christ to bear on the Irish, Patrick left their Irishness intact. The Irish didn’t have to become Roman in order to become Christian; that may seem obvious from where we sit, but it wasn’t at all obvious in Patrick’s time. His was a renewed vision of what it means to be a follower of Christ: just as the apostle Paul brought Christianity out from under the umbrella of Jewish culture, Patrick demonstrated that Christianity was bigger than the Roman Empire.

Profile photo of Pete Peterson

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


20 Comments

  1. PaulH

    I have always wanted something that all-encompassed St. Patrick. I have been very intrigued of his life for a few years and really appreciate this, Jonathan. Ordering my copy

  2. PaulH

    Actually, if the RR store is definitley going to sell some, I will wait to support the site. Amazon does not need more of my help.

  3. SD Smith

    “…even as he brought the gospel of Christ to bear on the Irish, Patrick left their Irishness intact. The Irish didn’t have to become Roman in order to become Christian.”

    That is good. Still true. My own father, a missionary in Africa, was particular not to bring Americanism to people as a religion (American Exceptionalism is rampant as religion in our culture) but the simple Gospel which is for all nations.

    I look forward to the book.

  4. Aaron Roughton

    I thought Hallmark made up St. Patrick’s Day in collusion with Budweiser and whoever makes green food coloring! You mean there’s a real guy?? I have to have this book. By the way, is it better for Jonathan if we buy it from the RR instead of Amazon?

  5. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Because Jonathan’s book is published by Thomas Nelson his royalty is the same here or at Amazon. The RR prefers that you buy from the RR though 🙂

  6. Chrissy

    I spent the last four-ish years of my life as a missionary in Dublin, Ireland. Any inkling of the true story of the Saint’s life have been lost to folklore and cheap culture-making. After reading this, I’m excited to know that there are some who still explore the heart of this precious Saint; the man who brought the gospel of Jesus Christ and reconciliation to a country that was dark and confused. What a gift this book is! I’m going to pass this along to my Irish friends.

  7. Profile photo of Russ Ramsey

    Russ Ramsey

    @russramsey

    I was just telling JR this yesterday and thought I’d share. Whenever I hear “St. Patrick,” the first thing that pops into my mind is, “I could take him.” Why? Well because I have associated St. Patrick with the Irish, which I have associated with Leprechauns which I have associated with the little “Fighting Irish” fella (with his fists raised for a fight) from Notre Dame. And by the looks him, I think I could take him. Hence, I think I could beat up St. Patrick.

    Aren’t I helpful?

  8. Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

    Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    No, Russ, I don’t think you could beat up St Patrick. I doubt you could even beat up St Teresa of Avila.

    Between Aaron R spray-painting his hair green and Russ talking about leprechauns, you see what the biographer of St Patrick is up against, dear Rabbit Room readers.

    SD brings up a great point about American exceptionalism. I was struck by many parallels between cultural Christianity in contemporary America and cultural Christianity in the Roman Empire of the fourth and fifth centuries.

  9. Aaron Roughton

    SD certainly did bring up a great point with regard to American exceptionalism, but I’d like to remind everyone about exceptional Americanism, which is what would allow me and Russ to take down St. Patrick. Hard. I mean, come on! He’s from the 4th century! Even if he is far, far, far tougher and stronger than the combination of Russ and Aaron, all I’d have to do is produce a flashlight or a cell phone and pretend I was a wizard while Russ sneak attacked him with a folding chair. Easy pickins.

  10. Chris Yokel

    Perhaps the Rabbit Room should offer a bonus for customers who buy so many copies of Jonathan’s book–a t-shirt with dear old Saint Patty’s picture accompanied by the phrase “I could take him!”

  11. Jesse D

    I’m very much looking forward to reading this now. I’ve been vaguely intrigued by St. Patrick whenever he pops up on my radar, which is seldom, and to know that he was one of the first to take the Gospel to “the ends of the earth” intrigues me even more.

    My wife and I are raising support to minister to a Native American tribe, the Yakamas, in central Washington. What you say about Patrick giving them the gospel while allowing them to stay Irish is essential not only to sharing the Gospel with Native Americans, but any cross-cultural missions work, and the fact that most attempts at reaching Native Americans has included some form of “killing the Indian to save the man” is probably a reason why only 2% of Native Americans claim to know Christ today. It’s heartbreaking to see the results when it’s done wrong, and I look forward to buying this when the Rabbit Room store has it.

  12. PaulH

    Thanks Pete – I will wait to support the RR
    I have this almost memorized since I was introduced to this written life prayer of St. Patrick about 3 years ago. Listen to his humility coupled with his fortitude of service. He truly loved Christ and new his own limitations.

    St. Patrick’s Breastplate

    I arise today
    Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
    Through the belief in the threeness,
    Through confession of the oneness
    Of the Creator of Creation.
    I arise today
    Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
    Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
    Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
    Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
    I arise today
    Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
    In obedience of angels,
    In the service of archangels,
    In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
    In prayers of patriarchs,
    In predictions of prophets,
    In preaching of apostles,
    In faith of confessors,
    In innocence of holy virgins,
    In deeds of righteous men.
    I arise today
    Through the strength of heaven:
    Light of sun,
    Radiance of moon,
    Splendor of fire,
    Speed of lightning,
    Swiftness of wind,
    Depth of sea,
    Stability of earth,
    Firmness of rock.
    I arise today
    Through God’s strength to pilot me:
    God’s might to uphold me,
    God’s wisdom to guide me,
    God’s eye to look before me,
    God’s ear to hear me,
    God’s word to speak for me,
    God’s hand to guard me,
    God’s way to lie before me,
    God’s shield to protect me,
    God’s host to save me
    From snares of devils,
    From temptations of vices,
    From everyone who shall wish me ill,
    Afar and anear,
    Alone and in multitude.
    I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
    Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
    Against incantations of false prophets,
    Against black laws of pagandom
    Against false laws of heretics,
    Against craft of idolatry,
    Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
    Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
    Christ to shield me today
    Against poison, against burning,
    Against drowning, against wounding,
    So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
    Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
    Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
    Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
    Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
    Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
    Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
    Christ in every eye that sees me,
    Christ in every ear that hears me.
    I arise today

    Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
    Through belief in the threeness,
    Through confession of the oneness,
    Of the Creator of Creation.

  13. Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

    Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    Chris Y, you make a great suggestion. Hopefully Evie Coates will take a break from making pudding and design that shirt.

    Chrissy, thanks for chiming in, and I hope your Irish friends enjoy Saint Patrick.

    Jesse, that phrase “killing the Indian to save the man” is chilling…as if being Anglo better fits us for heaven than being something else.

    PaulH, I love “The Breastplate.” From what I understand, it’s unlikely that Patrick actually wrote it, but it is encapsulates his worldview beautifully. Which is to say, if he didn’t write it, he should have.

    And Pete, thanks for making Saint Patrick happen in the RR store. You’re beautiful. I mean that.

  14. Jaclyn

    Now I can add a great book to my St. Patty’s celebration… this along with with corned beef and reciprocal pinching.

    I can always expect to be encouraged and enlightened when I visit the Rabbit Room. Thanks everyone!

  15. Jesse D

    Sacred Road Ministries. I imagine if you’ve done any sort of missions work on the rez, that’s the organization you would have done it through. It’s the only one I know of that has any sort of permanent presence.

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