As we celebrate St. Patrick’s feast day this week, let us remember how he lived a life of unwavering devotion, even in the midst of isolation. At just 16 years old, St. Patrick was brutally torn away from his family and everything familiar to him. He was captured from his homeland, shipped off to Ireland and sold into slavery. For the next six enslaved years of his life, he was forced to live and work as a lowly shepherd. His job as a shepherd often left him starving and vulnerable to the natural elements, rendering him physically weak. Furthermore, he had to wander in nomadic isolation, incredibly tired and incredibly alone.
Yet it was in this state of desolation and loneliness that St. Patrick truly felt the love of the Father for the first time.
In his Confessio, St. Patrick wrote, “After I arrived in Ireland, I tended sheep every day, and I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God.”
When thrown into dark circumstances, St. Patrick did not allow his heart to become bitter and sullen. Rather, he made the conscious choice to turn to the Father, knowing that the only lasting comfort would come from the one who created him. Certainly, the decision to continually bring himself before the Father was not always an easy one. He had the option to fixate on his horrid circumstances. He had the option to blame the Lord for his poor lot in life. He had the option to believe the lie that he was entirely alone. Instead, St. Patrick actively chose to believe the Truth: that the Father is constantly beckoning to us and offering to shoulder the weight of our burdens.
In many ways, St. Patrick’s suffering mirrors our own present circumstances. We have been abruptly torn away from familiarity, normalcy and our human expectations of what the future holds. Like St. Patrick, some of us have felt socially starved and spiritually weak.
How often are we, in a state of hardship and uncertainty, willing to fervently turn to prayer like St. Patrick?
It is not that the Lord wants us to dismiss and ignore our own suffering. He is not asking us to neglect our emotional needs. Rather, He is asking us to sit with Him each day, even if we are sitting with Him in the darkness. It is then that He can tend to our every need and love us as we are meant to be loved.