The writings of Ireland’s patron saint come alive in this new docudrama, which is set for limited release March 17-18.
How can any Catholic not love Saint Patrick—the bishop who converted Ireland as a returned slave? Yet, his own fellow bishops were not so enamored. They demanded that he leave the Emerald Isle to face charges in his native England. The complaints centered on their dislike of his methods, such as allowing uneducated Irishman into seminaries.
History judged Patrick well based on results and his fifth-century autobiographical document, Confession. He wrote it so that others would “understand that to which I have committed my soul.” Those writings come alive this Saint Patrick’s Day in the docudrama I Am Patrick showing in theaters for two days; March 17 and 18. It opens with his own written testimony from Confession: “I am Patrick. I am a sinner; the most unsophisticated of people, the least among all the Christians and among some the most contemptable.”
The movie reenacts Patrick’s privileged life in England, from captured slave, to priest and bishop, to missionary returned to the land of his slavery. I admit that I approached it with great partiality: a love of the heroic story of Saint Patrick whom I am named for. That being said, even a good story can be told poorly. But I Am Patrick is told well and in his own words are interspersed with commentary from Irish historians. It is a witness to what it means to give all without reserve, stirring an even greater admiration for the patron saint of Ireland.
In the fifth century, living on the edge of the Roman empire was dangerous. It was collapsing, and barbarians threatened civilization. Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates at the age of 16 and enslaved at the edge of the known world — Ireland. The only reason the barbarians did not kill him was because he was valuable as a slave.
Patrick believed his ordeal was a way God had chosen to shake him out of his “complacency and out of a way of life where God didn’t matter for me.” Daily depravation led him to reflect on his life. “There, the Lord opened up my understanding to my unbelief so that however late, I might become conscious of my failings and then remembering my need, I might turn with all my heart to the Lord my God. For it was he who looked after me before I knew him. Indeed, as a father consoles his son, so he protected me.”
While tending sheep, the love of God grew in Patrick. He would awaken before dawn and pray one-hundred times a day, according to him. “The spirit was fervent within me,” he explained. His love for God grew so deep that he fasted even when he was starving as a way to demonstrate his love and faith beyond just the words of his prayers.
One night, he heard a voice, “Patrick, well have you fasted. Very soon you shall travel to your homeland. Behold, your ship is prepared.” He took flight. The ship was around 200 miles away through a patchwork of kingdoms and boglands without roads. Always, was the risk of being recaptured.
“I traveled in the power of God who directed my path towards the good, and I feared nothing,” he wrote. When Patrick found the ship but was denied passage, he simply began to pray. Before he finished, a crew member shouted for him to come aboard. Challenges to his faith and life were always overcome by prayer, leaving an impression to the unbelieving around him.
Patrick returned home a very different person. He lived in union with God and to the dismay of his parents, eventually heard God calling him back to Ireland. He returned to preach the love of God and the Catholic faith took hold, overcoming dangers and the dominant force of the pagan Druids. There were raids in some of his established communities from slave traders, martyrs, hardships and much sadness. Patrick wept and suffered alongside his beloved Irish.
When charges were brought against him from the bishops in England, Patrick refused to return to face them. “I am not finished,” he said. “I’m not going back to Britain... I pray that God gives me perseverance, that he grant me to bear faithful witness to him right up until the passing of this life for the sake of my God.”
Go here to find select theaters showing I Am Patrick.
Rated PG. Run time is 90 minutes.