Patrick changed the world by bringing the gospel to people whom his peers believed to be beyond the gospel’s reach. Who are the “barbarians” of our day? Who are the people whom “good Christians” believe—in practice if not in fact—to be beyond the reach of the gospel?
2. Growing up in Roman Britain, Patrick had every opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel Yet he never believed any of it until he was a slave, completely separated from every advantage of his old life—including the church. What experiences have you had that have made spiritual truths come alive for you?
3. There were times in Roman history when Christians suffered grievous persecution. In Patrick’s era, however, the pendulum had swung completely to the other side: being a Christian (or at least calling oneself a Christian) could open many doors socially, politically, and economically. Where would you say that pendulum is in contemporary American culture?
4. America’s reach and power throughout the world is comparable to that of Rome at its height. In Patrick’s era, however, Rome was well past its height. What parallels, if any, do you see between fifth-century Rome and twenty-first-century America?
5. Patrick speaks of God’s mercy and providence “before I knew him and before I learned sense or could distinguish between good and evil.” How have you experienced God’s mercy at times when you were inattentive to the things of God?
6. Patrick celebrated his enslavement as the shock he needed to bring him to his senses. Like Paul, he was thankful even for the hardest things in life. What hard things are happening in your life that you need to reframe as opportunities for gratitude?
7. Patrick viewed his kidnapping as part of God’s larger judgment of the British people. How does God’s judgment manifest itself today? Do you believe God judges whole nations?
8. Patrick prayed for the starving sailors and a herd of pigs miraculously appeared. That spiritual triumph was quickly followed, however, by a terrifying trial—his experience of Satan pinning him to the ground, helpless. How have you experienced spiritual trials in your own life? How did you deal with them?
9. Throughout his adult life, Patrick was self-conscious about his lack of education. Ultimately, however, he came to see that weakness as a strength. How have you seen God make good use of your shortcomings?
10. Patrick was called to go far beyond his comfort zone to expand the kingdom of God. He went “to the ends of the earth.” What are “the ends of the earth” for you? How are you challenged to leave behind the comfortable for the sake of God’s kingdom?
11. Gratitude is a recurring theme in Patrick’s story. How does gratitude transform everyday experience?
12. The first time he was up for bishop, Patrick experienced a major setback as the result of a betrayal by a friend that he trusted. And yet he is remarkably free of bitterness. What can we learn from Patrick’s handling of that situation?
13. Patrick often got in trouble for following his personal convictions rather than following the lead of those who were in authority over him. How do you strike a balance between personal conviction and submitting to legitimate authority?
14. Patrick’s mission work was marked both by his skill in negotiating the complicated local politics of Ireland and by his faithfulness to the truths of the gospel on a personal level. He was, to borrow a phrase from Jesus, as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove. How might that balance play out in your day-to-day life?
15. One of the most striking things about Patrick is the fact that he seems fully and utterly aware that his value comes from the fact that God values him. He comes across as a person who needs none of the trappings of worldly success to give meaning to his life. How would your life look different if you were fully convinced that God’s good opinion is enough to give you significance?
16. Patrick’s Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus is marked by an anger that we don’t see in his Confession. And yet that anger is simply the flip side of the tenderness we see elsewhere in his writings. What is the relationship between anger and love?
17. Patrick seemed genuinely concerned that the local church would turn a blind eye to the sins of Coroticus, a nominal Christian, because he was rich and powerful. His victims, on the other hand, were poor and powerless. In what ways do we as Christians turn a blind eye to social injustice? In what ways is the Church making a difference throughout the world in social justice issues?
18. In many ways, Patrick’s approach to life and ministry was utterly unorthodox. Nobody had done the things he was doing. And yet, as he is careful to show in the Confession, his theology was perfectly orthodox. Who in our day is using unorthodox methods in the service of Christian orthodoxy? How do you react to people who are unorthodox in their approach to ministry? How do you draw the line between healthy unorthodoxy and mere novelty?
19. Patrick was a thoroughly humble man, and yet he believed himself to be a man of destiny. How do those two sides of Patrick work themselves out? How might you cultivate your own humility while at the same time living with the truth that God made you to do big, important things?
20. Patrick said that he had no reason but the gospel to go back to the land where he had been enslaved. How about you? Have you made hard choices for no other reason but the gospel?