In 432, Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, arrived on the Emerald Isle to begin his work of evangelizing the Irish. Upon his arrival, he discovered that his competition for the souls of the people would come from the pagan druid religion and their priests. St. Patrick's struggle with the existing pagan priests truly began with one rebellious and bold act that reverberates throughout history.
During the Druid springtime fire festival known as Beltane, there was a ritual where the pagan priests commanded that all fires in the land be extinguished under threat of death. The pagans would then light a fire called the High King's Fire, from which all the other fires would be relit.
Because this pagan festival occurred at the same time as Easter, St. Patrick seized the opportunity and climbed the hill of Slane and built an enormous Easter bonfire that could be seen for miles around. The infuriated High King sent soldiers and chariots to kill Patrick and put out his fire. But the soldiers were unable to extinguish it and the light of Christ truly dawned on Ireland.
In thanksgiving to God for this initial victory in his mission, Saint Patrick wrote an amazing prayer called the “The Breastplate of Saint Patrick,” also known as “The Lorica.” To download a free prayer card of this prayer, please click here.
How Bevan longs for the festival of the fire-a night of celebration honoring Balor, the god of light! Bevan knows when the huge bonfire is lit, he will forget all about his boring life as a goatherd and dance and jump with his friends. Bevan's daydreams about the party are interrupted by an oddly dressed stranger named Patrick. Patrick begs Bevan to take him to the king so that Patrick can tell him about the God he worships-one God in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). When Patrick learns the fire and the festival are to take place that night, he boldly decides to light a fire to rival the king's. Bevan is afraid of what will happen, but Patrick says, "Christ with me. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ on my right and on my left." Bevan runs away in fright but soon returns when he sees that Patrick has indeed followed through with his plan. Bevan races to outrun the soldiers sent to capture Patrick and put out the fire.
Patrick's faith keeps the fire burning-even when the soldiers try to douse it! The king is intrigued by Patrick and his fire. He grants Patrick permission to preach about God to the people after Patrick uses a shamrock to show the king how God is one God in three persons.