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Saint Patrick’s Easter Story that led to Evangelism in Ireland

“Upon landing back in Britain [where Patrick was led by a dream], Patrick returned to the village where he had been a slave. His intent was that his first convert would be the man who had been his master, Milchu. But when he arrived there, he found Milchu’s home in ashes. At word of his coming, Milchu had gathered all of his possessions into his home and lit it on fire, killing himself in the flames. Patrick was horror-struck at the madness of this act and determined to act dramatically to release these people from the fear of false gods that would drive a man to do such a thing.

Patrick spent some time preaching to the locals there and finding out what had happened since his departure and who was in power. His years as a slave had served him well, as he still spoke their language fluently and with little accent, making it easy to communicate. In his conversations with the slaves he learned that the high king of Ireland, King Laeghaire, would be celebrating the Druidic feast of Beltine, which coincided with Easter that year, at his courts in Tara. Patrick headed there immediately, intent on making a statement for the power of God over the idols and occult practices that bound these people.

It was traditional that on the eve of the festival, it would be the high kind who lighted the first bonfire of the festival. Any who defied this would be put to death. Yet as the king emerged that night to start the festival, Patrick’s bonfire was already glowing brightly for all to see on the hilltop of Slane not far away. As had Elijah before the prophets of Baal, Patrick had uttered a formal challenge to the Druids and their king.

As Laeghaire gave the order for the perpetrators to be found and killed, his two Druidic high priests offered him a word of caution and prophecy: “O king, live forever. This fire, which has been lit in defiance to the royal edict, will blaze forever unless it is put out this night on which it has been lit. The man who lit the fire and the coming kingdom by which it was lit will overcome us all!” But the king would hear none of it. He had twenty-seven chariots prepared, and he, high guests, and his court rode to subdue Patrick.

When the chariots arrived, Patrick was summoned before the king. The king ordered Patrick’s bonfire extinguished, but no matter what his soldiers did, the fire refused to be put out. Patrick gave a bold testimony for Jesus before them and refused to be silent. When Laeghaire commanded his soldiers to execute Patrick to quiet him, confusion descended on them, and they attacked one another. When the two Druid priests then turned their vehemence on Patrick and Jesus’ name, one fell and cracked his head on a rock, while the other somehow fell into the fire and perished. One version even records that when the king himself pulled his sword to slay Patrick, his arm froze in the air as stiff as a statue and stayed that way until he knelt in surrender to Patrick. Though it is unclear how many of the details of this encounter are legend and how many of the actually happened, Patrick’s victory over Laeghaire and his Druids opened the political doors of Ireland to the Gospel.”

Copied from “Voices of the Martyrs- Revolutionaries…”

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