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The most authoritative modern biography of the patron saint of Ireland, focusing on the historical Patrick and his times. Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his ow The most authoritative modern biography of the patron saint of Ireland, focusing on the historical Patrick and his times. Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his own voice in two remarkable letters he wrote about himself and his beliefs, new translations of which are included here and which are still astonishing for their passion and eloquence. Born late in the fourth century to an aristocratic British family, Patrick’s life was changed forever when he was abducted and taken to Ireland just before his sixteenth birthday. He spent six grueling years there as a slave, but the ordeal turned him from an atheist into a true believer. After a vision in which God told him he would go home, Patrick escaped captivity and, following a perilous journey, returned safely to Britain to the amazement of his family. But even more amazing to them was his announcement that he intended to go back to Ireland to spend the rest of his life ministering to the people who had once enslaved him. Set against the turbulent backdrop of the British Isles during the last years of the Roman Empire, St. Patrick of Ireland brilliantly brings to life the real Patrick, a man whose deep spiritual conviction and devotion helped to transform a country.


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The most authoritative modern biography of the patron saint of Ireland, focusing on the historical Patrick and his times. Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his ow The most authoritative modern biography of the patron saint of Ireland, focusing on the historical Patrick and his times. Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his own voice in two remarkable letters he wrote about himself and his beliefs, new translations of which are included here and which are still astonishing for their passion and eloquence. Born late in the fourth century to an aristocratic British family, Patrick’s life was changed forever when he was abducted and taken to Ireland just before his sixteenth birthday. He spent six grueling years there as a slave, but the ordeal turned him from an atheist into a true believer. After a vision in which God told him he would go home, Patrick escaped captivity and, following a perilous journey, returned safely to Britain to the amazement of his family. But even more amazing to them was his announcement that he intended to go back to Ireland to spend the rest of his life ministering to the people who had once enslaved him. Set against the turbulent backdrop of the British Isles during the last years of the Roman Empire, St. Patrick of Ireland brilliantly brings to life the real Patrick, a man whose deep spiritual conviction and devotion helped to transform a country.

30 review for St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    Philip Freeman has taken St. Patrick off his pedestal and presented him as a man - a man who never sought the adoration he was given. He only wanted to serve God as a slave who escaped who escaped from his masters; then as a bishop who would return to the country of his former masters to serve once again by spreading Christianity. A meticulously researched biography that is even more powerful than the legends.

  2. 4 out of 5

    7jane

    (fitting that this book, that deals among other things with slaves and free men, is written by a man with a surname of 'Freeman') This is a biography seeking the true, historic man and talks about the world of the time too, which tells us things that any written material may not be able to (through archaeology). A few black and white pictures are included, and the chapters are just the right lenght. There is also map of the Celtic lands and of Ireland in Patrick's time. We follow Patrick's life f (fitting that this book, that deals among other things with slaves and free men, is written by a man with a surname of 'Freeman') This is a biography seeking the true, historic man and talks about the world of the time too, which tells us things that any written material may not be able to (through archaeology). A few black and white pictures are included, and the chapters are just the right lenght. There is also map of the Celtic lands and of Ireland in Patrick's time. We follow Patrick's life from his early years to his old age, we witness his slavery in his youth, guess what he did between escape and comic band, what he did in Ireland - no, there were never snakes in Ireland, as a Roman writing from 200 years before Patrick also states - and the two letters of his we still have (lucky thing they were copied often enough, because originals are lost, and many copies are not in full or just fragments). At the end are two letters of Patrick (that show both his character and his lack of learning (due to slavery)), the spelling of some Irish names and words, timeline and some suggested reading. The text shows the time around the fall of Rome, and how it wasn't as disastrous as I thought it could've been, nor how those who experienced the fall feared. It shows what influences three groups of people in Ireland had on Patrick's ability to spread his faith (the numerous small kings, the druids of both sexes, the women of both free and slave kind). A chapter on Corocticus, who Patrick wrote to, to free some Christian slaves that the man, as a Christian, shouldn't have taken - whatever the result was, it did no doubt give some influence in all the places it was read. We also get a chapter on what the Ireland was like after Patrick (his life's end is quite open, but whether it was peaceful or not, there is no grave, as he wished it to be so). At leas for the next 200 years not all were Christians, nor were times peaceful, but the faith stayed. Some Irish monks and clergy did travel eastwars, to Britain and Gaul at least, and gave influence to certain areas. This is the historical Patrick, not so much the religious legend with the evading poisoning, driving out snakes etc., and it's a better view this way. It shows Patrick's deep trust in God for guiding and protecting him during his life - and although at first Patrick was forgotten for a while, he eventually because the popular figure we have today; this book adds the real, faith-driven man into it. A very worthy reading for anyone interested :)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I was very impressed by Philip Freeman's biography of St. Patrick. The research was clear and quite thorough, relying heavily on two of St. Patrick's own letters. Freeman also gave an extensive overview of Ireland during the time of St. Patrick in order to give historical context, and to separate the man from the myth. The only disappointment that I had was Freeman's hermaneutic/apparent starting point of "none of the myths/miracle stories can be true, because the miraculous is not credible." Ho I was very impressed by Philip Freeman's biography of St. Patrick. The research was clear and quite thorough, relying heavily on two of St. Patrick's own letters. Freeman also gave an extensive overview of Ireland during the time of St. Patrick in order to give historical context, and to separate the man from the myth. The only disappointment that I had was Freeman's hermaneutic/apparent starting point of "none of the myths/miracle stories can be true, because the miraculous is not credible." However, the sense of this wasn't as strong as I have encountered in other secular biographers of saints' lives. Overall, I would highly recommend Freeman's work as both entertaining and informative.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Before reading this, I hardly knew anything about the history presented in this book. I found it to be an interesting overview of the Irish and Roman-British culture in the 5th century and explanation of Patrick's letters. Patrick was not some magical leprechaun, but an inspirational Christian who lived by biblical faith after Irish slavery. He was an incredible example of the second greatest commandment "love your neighbor as yourself" -- a command that if obeyed, would solve many, many of our Before reading this, I hardly knew anything about the history presented in this book. I found it to be an interesting overview of the Irish and Roman-British culture in the 5th century and explanation of Patrick's letters. Patrick was not some magical leprechaun, but an inspirational Christian who lived by biblical faith after Irish slavery. He was an incredible example of the second greatest commandment "love your neighbor as yourself" -- a command that if obeyed, would solve many, many of our world's problems.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    This is an excellent book. We know very little about St. Patrick and Freeman is very conscientious of explaining what is a fact and what is only a good guess. This book is more about the background world of St. Patrick's day than the man himself (...since we know almost no hard facts) and I enjoyed it very much. His translations of St. Patrick's letters at the end of the book are also good; one of the better translations I've read. This is an excellent book. We know very little about St. Patrick and Freeman is very conscientious of explaining what is a fact and what is only a good guess. This book is more about the background world of St. Patrick's day than the man himself (...since we know almost no hard facts) and I enjoyed it very much. His translations of St. Patrick's letters at the end of the book are also good; one of the better translations I've read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Gerald

    An easy-to-read bio of one of the greatest saints in Church history, St. Patrick is a fine example of the greatness a person can rise up to despite the trials and tribulations. And that greatness is not only for oneself, but also for the greater good of society and the greater glory of God.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Richard Duncan

    I enjoyed this book. It explains the sacrifice Patrick made to go from a privileged life in Britain on a life-long mission to Ireland where he had once been taken as a slave. He evangelized among a tribal, pagan people and planted churches. The book helped me appreciate Patrick's intimacy with God, his courage, and his fruitfulness in ministry. I am inspired to follow Christ more closely. He was a true missionary and an example for today's church. For me, it didn't read like a biography usually I enjoyed this book. It explains the sacrifice Patrick made to go from a privileged life in Britain on a life-long mission to Ireland where he had once been taken as a slave. He evangelized among a tribal, pagan people and planted churches. The book helped me appreciate Patrick's intimacy with God, his courage, and his fruitfulness in ministry. I am inspired to follow Christ more closely. He was a true missionary and an example for today's church. For me, it didn't read like a biography usually reads. We have so little knowledge about Patrick's life, that Freeman, based on the historical context, often had to write things like, "Surely Patrick must have thought... been feeling... acted..." Lots of the book felt like conjecture - admittedly a well-informed conjecture. But the way things were presented was a bit off-putting to me. I had previously read the Confessions. I have to say that understanding the historical context makes the Confessions much more accessible and inspirational. The first time I read the confessions, I felt as though I read it in "black and white." After reading Freeman's book, I feel as though I was reading the confessions in "living color!" I recommend this book, especially for those who see Saint Patrick as an ancient relic who is inaccessible and merely sacramental.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A good basic outline… very well done!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Regina Lindsey

    What a disappointment! But, it really isn't the author's fault. It's just that with the exception of two letters written by Patrick himself - Confession and Letter to the Soldiers of Croticus (both of which are at least fully included in this work) - apparently very little historical information remains on Patrick. Unfortunately, Confession reliability is suspect; it seems more of a modern-day retelling of several Old Testament stories in the shape of Patrick's life as if further emphasizing What a disappointment! But, it really isn't the author's fault. It's just that with the exception of two letters written by Patrick himself - Confession and Letter to the Soldiers of Croticus (both of which are at least fully included in this work) - apparently very little historical information remains on Patrick. Unfortunately, Confession reliability is suspect; it seems more of a modern-day retelling of several Old Testament stories in the shape of Patrick's life as if further emphasizing God's direct selection and approval of Patrick and his work in Ireland. All we know is that Patrick was from a Roman family in Britain. They were a land-owning family and served the church for two generations. At the age of fifteen Patrick was kidnapped and sold into slavery into Ireland. Patrick claims to have received a vision commanding him to return home. After a one month journey across Ireland he finds a ship willing to take him aboard and back to Britain. Reunited with his family, he claims to have another vision to return to Ireland and convert its people. He eventually became a Deacon then a Bishop and faced opposition with the British church, which used a sin of some kind (we don't even know what it is) from his teenage years as a pretext to investigate Patrick. That's ALL we know. We don't even have the benefit of knowing what towns he was born in, lived in slavery, found a return ship to return home, where he preached, where he died, or where he's buried. We don't know how long he stayed in Britain before returning to England. We don't know the outcome of the investigation. The book was frustrating for its lack facts and it continuous use of phrases like "you can imagine", "might have", "likely", "probably," "possibly", etc. But, the lack of documents is understandable taking into account Irish culture at the time. It was heavily reliant on oral tradition and writing religious texts was forbidden in Celtic religion. But, it is a shame because the conviction and genuine care of the Irish Christians displayed in the letter to Croticus gives you a glimpse into his heart. It would have been nice to know more. Patrick is probably a subject that should be left to historical fiction writers rather than non-fiction unless more evidence is ever uncovered.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    This was a pretty "historical" biography - lots of information about relationships between Britain and Ireland including ethnic slavery and military rivalries, the history of Celts and the influence of Druids and Romans, pre-Christian religion, the early history of Christianity and its spread into Britain and Ireland, etc. I found it fascinating, though I didn't agree with all the interpretations of early Christianity. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century, but was kidnapped by sla This was a pretty "historical" biography - lots of information about relationships between Britain and Ireland including ethnic slavery and military rivalries, the history of Celts and the influence of Druids and Romans, pre-Christian religion, the early history of Christianity and its spread into Britain and Ireland, etc. I found it fascinating, though I didn't agree with all the interpretations of early Christianity. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century, but was kidnapped by slave traders as a teenager and shipped to Ireland. He worked for 6 years and then escaped, walking across Ireland to a port city and managing to sail home. But a spiritual awakening drew him back to the "barbaric" country where he had served as a slave, and he spent the rest of his life sharing the message of Christianity in Ireland. The biographical details are mostly based on two long letters Patrick wrote near the end of his life; the full text is included in the epilogue. But the letters are brought to life with lots of fascinating historical detail that sets the context.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This is not a long, comprehensive biography of St. Patrick. Rather, it is an overview of the world he lived in and a summary of what his life may have been like. There are only two extant writings by Patrick himself, and so little concrete history from Britain and Ireland at this time. Therefore, I appreciated that Freeman kept it simple, not trying to force the thin record of St. Patrick into unsupported conclusions. Freeman does, however, craft a logical and interesting narrative. He also prov This is not a long, comprehensive biography of St. Patrick. Rather, it is an overview of the world he lived in and a summary of what his life may have been like. There are only two extant writings by Patrick himself, and so little concrete history from Britain and Ireland at this time. Therefore, I appreciated that Freeman kept it simple, not trying to force the thin record of St. Patrick into unsupported conclusions. Freeman does, however, craft a logical and interesting narrative. He also provides full modern translations of St. Patrick's writings, which are enjoyable. He also provides a helpful bibliography for those who wish to dig deeper. While perhaps not a stunning scholarly work, this book is a very respectable armchair history that brings humanity and concreteness back to a character overly steeped in myth in the popular mindset.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I enjoyed this biography of St. Patrick and most especially appreciated the historical placement. I found this book easier to digest than another I read simply because of the presentation of information, and a quick course in the state of the Roman Empire in Britain around the time of Patrick's birth. There was a lot of cultural and time placement in the book before a presentation of some aspect of Patrick's life was given for me it helps to retain the information so I don't get a lot of facts f I enjoyed this biography of St. Patrick and most especially appreciated the historical placement. I found this book easier to digest than another I read simply because of the presentation of information, and a quick course in the state of the Roman Empire in Britain around the time of Patrick's birth. There was a lot of cultural and time placement in the book before a presentation of some aspect of Patrick's life was given for me it helps to retain the information so I don't get a lot of facts floating in time and space with no place to put them down mentally. Whet my appetite to revisit some Roman history...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Very readable and authentic. Philip gave a very good background of Irish culture in St. Patrick's day (5th century AD), which goes a long way toward understanding the world Patrick faced. I was very impressed by the book. It's a very quick read, which is refreshing considering what I've been reading recently. It sticks closely to the few things we do know about Patrick, so while it feels authentic, it's rather lacking in details: I don't feel like I have a good knowledge of what Patrick really d Very readable and authentic. Philip gave a very good background of Irish culture in St. Patrick's day (5th century AD), which goes a long way toward understanding the world Patrick faced. I was very impressed by the book. It's a very quick read, which is refreshing considering what I've been reading recently. It sticks closely to the few things we do know about Patrick, so while it feels authentic, it's rather lacking in details: I don't feel like I have a good knowledge of what Patrick really did (because we don't really know for sure), or why he was so special except vaguely that he made converts and established a church.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Drnjevic

    Scholarly and engaging biography of Patrick. Most surprising to me was how little we actually know about him. So much pop-culture and so little fact. Highly recommend.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karen Davis

    Good historical read. Fun fact: There are no snake species native to, or naturally occurring in Ireland.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Ogilvie

    St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography does a pretty good job of interweaving the few facts that are actually known about St. Patrick with a historical backdrop to give us in part a factual history and in part a conjectured picture of his life. It seems that most if not all of the facts of his life are taken from two surviving letters (well, they survive as copies of copies). One is a letter to a British citizen who had killed and captured some of St. Patrick's followers in a slave raid on Ireland. St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography does a pretty good job of interweaving the few facts that are actually known about St. Patrick with a historical backdrop to give us in part a factual history and in part a conjectured picture of his life. It seems that most if not all of the facts of his life are taken from two surviving letters (well, they survive as copies of copies). One is a letter to a British citizen who had killed and captured some of St. Patrick's followers in a slave raid on Ireland. The other is his "confessions" that tell his general history. Living in the 5th century, Patrick was born a Roman citizen, son of a noble, in what is now England. At 15 years old he was captured by an Irish slave raid and spent six years as a slave in Ireland. He escaped back to his family and worked his way through the church to eventually become the 2nd Bishop to Ireland. (The first one had a very short, mediocre tenure.) I picked this book up because I wanted to learn more about St. Patrick. After reading How the Irish Saved Civilization, I was very intrigued by the idea that St. Patrick could have been the first person in modern history to have opposed the general idea of slavery. Unfortunately this book did not make the same conjecture. I think any interpretation of this position would be based on his letter to the person who captured and murdered Irish Christians. He certainly denounces the act and calls for the slaves to be released, but it's a far cry from an out-right denouncement of slavery as an institution. Slavery was such a normal part of life that even the man who had seen his family and friends murdered while he was put into slavery and escaped, doesn't seem to quite come out and say that slavery should be abolished. He certainly calls for the freeing of his Christian Irish friends, but I think you could find people calling for the end of slavery of their own people going very far back. According to this book he certainly doesn't reach the level that I was expecting. I'd like to find out who was the first to universally condemn slavery. One interesting point is that Philip Freeman makes a point to say that "the Irish did not save civilization" through the disbursement of books and literature after the middle ages. Which seems like a purposeful and direct contradiction to How the Irish Saved Civilization. Which would be a fun argument to investigation, but Freeman doesn't give any real support for his side. Regardless, this book was overall an interesting read, but not outstanding. Might have garnered only 3 stars except the content is near impossible to find anywhere else. (NARRATOR: Alan Sklar has a great voice but it felt very flat and monotone for most of the book. Very "historical". I'd have preferred a less weighty approach.)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A good and readable biography of Patricius of Bannaventa Berniae, who was kidnapped by Irish raiders and forced to work as a shepherd for six years, only to escape, return home, and hear a calling to return and spread the gospel of Christ to the very Irishmen who had enslaved him. Though much of the book's material is devoted to Patrick's times rather than to his life (specific areas include the cultures, worldviews and traditions of fourth century Britain and Ireland; Celtic mythology and the p A good and readable biography of Patricius of Bannaventa Berniae, who was kidnapped by Irish raiders and forced to work as a shepherd for six years, only to escape, return home, and hear a calling to return and spread the gospel of Christ to the very Irishmen who had enslaved him. Though much of the book's material is devoted to Patrick's times rather than to his life (specific areas include the cultures, worldviews and traditions of fourth century Britain and Ireland; Celtic mythology and the pagan priesthoods; the role of women in early Ireland; Christian doctrine and its roots in history; etc.), this information is both relevant and fascinating. Further, Freeman's book makes heavy use of Patrick's own letters, even going so far as to include a translation of their full text as an appendix! Freeman's main concern is evoking the world that Patrick lived in, and the man's response to the tragedies and blessings of his life. Myths and folklore surrounding the saint are all dispelled, but lightly and not dismissively, and only so that the true historical man may be better revealed. Freeman's skepticism of the folklore, moreover, does not go so far as to treat every supernatural element (e.g., dreams and visions) in Patrick's life as falsehood. All in all, I enjoyed the book and thought it a great introduction to the life of a saint, and the world of Ireland in the fourth century

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Brozyna

    Like most people I knew only two things about St. Patrick: he drove the snakes out of Ireland, and his day is a time for drinking vast amounts of alcohol (whether you're Irish or not). Last month I read online somewhere that Patrick was a Romano-British patrician kidnapped by Irish raiders in the 4th century. After 6 years as a slave he escaped, returned home to Britain, trained to become a priest, then traveled back to preach to the Irish. Intrigued, I went to amazon.com, typed in "St. Patrick" Like most people I knew only two things about St. Patrick: he drove the snakes out of Ireland, and his day is a time for drinking vast amounts of alcohol (whether you're Irish or not). Last month I read online somewhere that Patrick was a Romano-British patrician kidnapped by Irish raiders in the 4th century. After 6 years as a slave he escaped, returned home to Britain, trained to become a priest, then traveled back to preach to the Irish. Intrigued, I went to amazon.com, typed in "St. Patrick" and found this book. I then checked it out from my local library. Philip Freeman writes for those who have little previous knowledge of Late Roman, Pagan Irish, or early Christian history. This makes his book a breeze to read. He tells this true-life adventure story using Patrick's own surviving letters and general facts about the time and place in which he lived. It's really a fascinating adventure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Parker

    Freeman clearly and concisely relates what precious few details we know about the life of Patrick and the world of the 5th-century British isles. The man led an incredible life that was full of danger and controversy. His example of faith is something which ought to encourage us in much the same way that the list of saints in Hebrews 11 does. There are moments here and there when Freeman seems to me a bit looser than I'd prefer in speculation; "Patrick must have felt," "He surely would have loved Freeman clearly and concisely relates what precious few details we know about the life of Patrick and the world of the 5th-century British isles. The man led an incredible life that was full of danger and controversy. His example of faith is something which ought to encourage us in much the same way that the list of saints in Hebrews 11 does. There are moments here and there when Freeman seems to me a bit looser than I'd prefer in speculation; "Patrick must have felt," "He surely would have loved," etc. That may be rather nitpicky on my part, though. The book ends with an English translation of the two letters we have from Patrick's pen. The translation has more of a dynamic vibe to it than a formal one, but that's just fine for getting a sense of what Freeman calls Patrick's conversational tone. The two letters are fascinating enough on their own!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

    I'm not quite sure what it is about Patrick that is so fascinating to me but certainly part of it has to do with our inability to truly know anything about him. I enjoyed this biography immensely, conjecture and all. I feel the author did a wonderful job filling in the gaps by describing the state of affairs in Ireland at the time; so even though we didn't exactly know what Patrick was doing, we certainly could know what he was up against. I find his Confessions fascinating. I could read his words I'm not quite sure what it is about Patrick that is so fascinating to me but certainly part of it has to do with our inability to truly know anything about him. I enjoyed this biography immensely, conjecture and all. I feel the author did a wonderful job filling in the gaps by describing the state of affairs in Ireland at the time; so even though we didn't exactly know what Patrick was doing, we certainly could know what he was up against. I find his Confessions fascinating. I could read his words again and again. I only wish I'd known four years ago when I visited Dublin that a copy was at Trinity College - I'd have spent (a little) less time fawning over the Book of Kells (though totally justified and worth it) and taken a moment to admire the work of such a great man.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Slight but well-researched and -written biography of St. Patrick. The little reliable history and biography of St. Patrick is based on two surviving letters he wrote. But the amazing thing is he lived from approximately 390-360 AD, and his letters and what little we know about him are the earliest record of Christianity in that part of the world. And forget St. Patrick's Day and four-leaf clovers and everything else you think you know about Patrick. His life was at once more mundane and more amaz Slight but well-researched and -written biography of St. Patrick. The little reliable history and biography of St. Patrick is based on two surviving letters he wrote. But the amazing thing is he lived from approximately 390-360 AD, and his letters and what little we know about him are the earliest record of Christianity in that part of the world. And forget St. Patrick's Day and four-leaf clovers and everything else you think you know about Patrick. His life was at once more mundane and more amazing, and his Christian influence on that island nation covered incredible breadth and depth. Thomas Cahill's modern classic How the Irish Saved Civilization (Hinges of History) puts St. Patrick's story into the context of the present world that in saving he helped create.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Excellent lay introduction to Patrick of Ireland and his writings, which I read as preparation for (re)reading all the books in my library about this massively important figure in the conversion of the Irish to Christianity. Freeman has separate chapters about the historical and social background for Patrick's mission: He offers an ingenious solution (not suggested before in the writings about Patrick) to the annalistic note that in 431 Palladius was sent as bishop to the Irish believing in Chri Excellent lay introduction to Patrick of Ireland and his writings, which I read as preparation for (re)reading all the books in my library about this massively important figure in the conversion of the Irish to Christianity. Freeman has separate chapters about the historical and social background for Patrick's mission: He offers an ingenious solution (not suggested before in the writings about Patrick) to the annalistic note that in 431 Palladius was sent as bishop to the Irish believing in Christ and that Patrick was sent in 432. He suggests that Patrick came with Palladius as one of his missioners and helpers. When Palladius died the next year, Patrick took over the mission.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Very interesting look at how Patrick became a patron saint of Ireland after being captured as a teenager and forced into slavery. Miraculously escaped and returned to his home and went back as a priest to spread the word of Christ, to the Irish who had once enslaved him. Very interesting look into the pagan state of Ireland during Roman times, the many Gods and Goddesses and his plan to spread Christianity. It was interesting to see he had to pay Kings off in order to do so. A lot of facts relat Very interesting look at how Patrick became a patron saint of Ireland after being captured as a teenager and forced into slavery. Miraculously escaped and returned to his home and went back as a priest to spread the word of Christ, to the Irish who had once enslaved him. Very interesting look into the pagan state of Ireland during Roman times, the many Gods and Goddesses and his plan to spread Christianity. It was interesting to see he had to pay Kings off in order to do so. A lot of facts related to early Christian and late Rome.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Solomon White

    Great read. Serves as an introduction to St. Patrick's life. Great read. Serves as an introduction to St. Patrick's life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    We all know of St. Patrick, but how much do we really know about him? In this book, Philip Freeman gives us a wonderfully concise and enlightening introduction to the life of Patrick, missionary to Ireland. We don't have a wealth of information on Patrick, but the documents we do have are quite amazing, giving us an intriguing peek into his life, his personal thoughts and feelings, and the historical era he lived in. (By the way, he did not drive all the snakes from Ireland). Patrick was a wealt We all know of St. Patrick, but how much do we really know about him? In this book, Philip Freeman gives us a wonderfully concise and enlightening introduction to the life of Patrick, missionary to Ireland. We don't have a wealth of information on Patrick, but the documents we do have are quite amazing, giving us an intriguing peek into his life, his personal thoughts and feelings, and the historical era he lived in. (By the way, he did not drive all the snakes from Ireland). Patrick was a wealthy, British Roman citizen who was captured in his youth by Irish pirates and sold into slavery. During his time of bondage, he had a spiritual awakening of sorts, experiencing spiritual visions from God, and became a Christian. He was a slave for six years and then miraculously escaped. He amazingly decided to return to the land of his captors to bring the good news of the gospel. He wanted to share the love he had experienced from the Heavenly Father with the Irish people. Despite many dangers and a life of deprivation, he spent the rest of his life with the Irish. Though successful in accomplishing his mission, he surprisingly struggled with feelings of inferiority due to his lack of education. Instead of letting this stop him, he used it as a spur to rely on God more. "So I will trust my spirit to my most faithful God. I serve here as his ambassador in spite of my shortcomings - but God doesn't use the world's standards or such matters. He chose me for the job - me, one of the least of his servants - to be his assistant." Along with an overview of the life of Patrick, Freeman also delves into what life was like in the fourth and fifth centuries. I enjoyed learning more about a time period I know little of. Here are a couple of nuggets: - Greeks and Romans thought of the Mediterranean area as the center of the world. All areas around it in any direction, they thought, were inhospitable to human life. Ireland was seen as being at the edges of civilization, or at the "end of the earth." - In Irish culture at that time, wealthy families would purposefully put their children in foster homes. This was done for various reasons, but one main reason was to create alliances between people groups. A foreigner raised as a son made it harder for the foster parents to see the group he came from as foreign, or enemies. To sum up, this is a highly readable and scholarly biography of Patrick. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about this iconic man. Content Warning: There are a few details of early Irish culture that were quite awful to read about.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Luke Wagner

    In Philip Freeman's biography of St. Patrick, he successfully separates the Patrick of history from the Patrick of myth. Freeman tells the story, as best we can piece it together, thanks to reliable sources, archaeology, and historical studies, of Patrick, a British-born son of nobility and status, who at the age of 15 was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. For six years, Patrick worked as a shepherd, serving his Irish masters; during this time, he became a deep follower In Philip Freeman's biography of St. Patrick, he successfully separates the Patrick of history from the Patrick of myth. Freeman tells the story, as best we can piece it together, thanks to reliable sources, archaeology, and historical studies, of Patrick, a British-born son of nobility and status, who at the age of 15 was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. For six years, Patrick worked as a shepherd, serving his Irish masters; during this time, he became a deep follower of Christ, and eventually made his way home to Britain at the age of 21, only to return later in life to Ireland, where he would spend the rest of his life, ministering to, living with, and proclaiming the good news of Jesus to those who had once captured and enslaved him. If anyone is interested in St. Patrick, one should definitely read Freeman's biography. As far as biographies go, it is relatively short, and a very easy read. I personally enjoyed the latter half of the book more than the former half. In the last chapters, Freeman dives deep into the only two written documents still in existence composed by Patrick, and in his Epilogue, Freeman includes the two letters in their entirety in his own translation. These two letters, "Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus" and "Confession," are endearing and enlightening. They expose us to the very real, historical, and human Patrick who would later, after his death, become the Patron Saint of Ireland. Rather than applauding himself, Patrick writes candidly in these letters about his faults and shortcomings: "I am Patrick--a sinner--the most unsophisticated and unworthy among all the faithful of God." He is ashamed of his lack of education--"I have been afraid that people would laugh at the way I write. You see, I don't have much education compared to other people"--but he also sees the hand of God in this, as it is proof to Patrick that it is only by the gift of God that he is able to do in Ireland what the Lord has assigned for him to do: "God chose foolish little me from among all of you who seem so wise and so expert in the law and so powerful in your eloquence. He picked ignorant Patrick ... to go forth with fear and reverence ... to serve the Irish faithfully."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    Very good short biography of St Patrick. Freeman uses the two extant texts by Patrick himself, the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus and the Confession, to reconstruct Patrick’s life story and a mass of related material from antiquity to flesh out what we don’t know—which is a lot—with likelihoods. Freeman’s account is especially good on context, taking Patrick’s world, a post-Roman world torn between multiple rival peoples and characterized top to bottom by tribe, kingdom, cattle rustling, hu Very good short biography of St Patrick. Freeman uses the two extant texts by Patrick himself, the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus and the Confession, to reconstruct Patrick’s life story and a mass of related material from antiquity to flesh out what we don’t know—which is a lot—with likelihoods. Freeman’s account is especially good on context, taking Patrick’s world, a post-Roman world torn between multiple rival peoples and characterized top to bottom by tribe, kingdom, cattle rustling, human sacrifice, and slavery, and making it comprehensible to the modern reader. It’s an excellent example of the kind of scholarship required by topics with only scanty primary source coverage and Freeman makes educated guesses about what we don’t know—which, again, is a lot—mostly responsibly. There are a few too many speculations and perhaps a bit too much skepticism toward later traditions for my taste, though understandably so for strictly scholarly purposes, but nothing outside the realm of possibility based on what we do have. The book includes Freeman’s complete translations of the two letters mentioned above, which are a great resource. The preceding biography offers a lot of enriching context, making a reading of these texts immediately following Freeman’s biography extraordinarily rich. Freeman also gives a few pages to the strange textual history of the oldest surviving manuscript of the Confession, the Book of Armagh, as an example of how fraught the survival of any medieval text was, especially one by an isolated figure from a remote part of the world. An excellent short read. Worth checking out ahead of St Patrick’s Day. As a kid-friendly companion piece I’d recommend the late Tomie dePaola’s picture book Patrick: The Patron Saint of Ireland. Highly recommended, not only for those interested in Ireland or St Patrick but for anyone wanting a glimpse of the post-Roman/early medieval British Isles.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Gamble

    Enjoyable, especially in the aspect of context setting. Really appreciated that the surviving writings were included after a comparitively lengthy introduction to them. The downside of this one is that some cultural customs that were regional are presented as the whole culture, and customs that occurred for a few years are sometimes presented as things that happened in all history. The most obvious example is the king having sex with a horse as the symbol of the land, which is often presented as Enjoyable, especially in the aspect of context setting. Really appreciated that the surviving writings were included after a comparitively lengthy introduction to them. The downside of this one is that some cultural customs that were regional are presented as the whole culture, and customs that occurred for a few years are sometimes presented as things that happened in all history. The most obvious example is the king having sex with a horse as the symbol of the land, which is often presented as the entire culture throughout all time rather than something from a specific area during a specific time frame, so I am unsure if this error comes from intentionally creating a belief in the reader or if it's just common research and bias in sources. I'm thinking it's probably the latter as most of these instances have to do with historical issues and the overall tone of the book is neutral.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    Educational. But read like a textbook and thus the rating. Listen to me well, all of you, great and small, everyone wjo has any fear of God--especially you wealthy landowners so prod of your education -- listen and consider this carefully: God chose foolish little me me from among all of you who seem so wise and so expert in the law and so powerful I'm your eloquence. He picked ignorant Patrick ahead of all of you --even though I am not worthy -- he picked me to go forth with fear and reverence Educational. But read like a textbook and thus the rating. Listen to me well, all of you, great and small, everyone wjo has any fear of God--especially you wealthy landowners so prod of your education -- listen and consider this carefully: God chose foolish little me me from among all of you who seem so wise and so expert in the law and so powerful I'm your eloquence. He picked ignorant Patrick ahead of all of you --even though I am not worthy -- he picked me to go forth with fear and reverence -- and without any of you complainaing at the time. Patrick was born in Britain late in the 4th century. His father was a priest and a nobleman. He was kidnapped from his home at the age of 15 and sold into slavery in Ireland. Six years later he ran away and returned home. Later he returned to Ireland to spread the Christian gospel.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bobby

    A well done historic background bio of one of the most maligned Saints. Patrick was enslaved as a young boy by Irish pirates and after escaping 6 years later he had a divine vision that he should return to Ireland and spread the Christian faith, which he did for the rest of his life. This tome also contains two letters written by Patrick in the Fifth century and translated from Latin. One is his angry reprimand to Coroticus, a Britain chieftain, who had massacred and enslaved some Irish Christia A well done historic background bio of one of the most maligned Saints. Patrick was enslaved as a young boy by Irish pirates and after escaping 6 years later he had a divine vision that he should return to Ireland and spread the Christian faith, which he did for the rest of his life. This tome also contains two letters written by Patrick in the Fifth century and translated from Latin. One is his angry reprimand to Coroticus, a Britain chieftain, who had massacred and enslaved some Irish Christians Patrick had just converted and baptized and a second letter telling his story and some reference to a sin he had committed as a youth, called Confessions.

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