Patrick of Ireland: A Missionary “Bound in the Spirit”

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Reading: “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there.” Acts 20:22

Although Patrick is known across the world as the great missionary to Ireland he accomplished this work under a cloud of personal feelings of inadequacy. He felt deeply the fact that he was “countrified” (sec. 12) and that he “had not studied like others” (Confession, sec. 9). He felt that he was “awkward,” “inarticulate,” and that he had a small vocabulary. He said, “I am unable to explain briefly what I mean” (Confession, sec. 10). While his “mind and spirit long and the inclination of [his] heart” was to preach the gospel (Confession, sec. 10), yet his flesh was unwilling and inadequate, lacking confidence.

Despite—or perhaps because of—feeling the limitations of the flesh much as Moses, Jeremiah, and many others did, Patrick was called by God, not by the “clerical intellectuals” (Confession, sec. 13). A number of times Patrick referred to this calling as the working of the Spirit in his heart. It was a calling he could not escape. He says he was “bound in the Spirit” (Confession, sec. 43), that “the Spirit kept prompting” him (sec. 46), and that he was “obliged by the Spirit” (sec. 10).

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