St. Patrick the shepherd

March 13, 2020

The Pastor's Page

St. Patrick spent six years as a shepherd. When he was sixteen Irish pirates swept into his village, kidnapped him, and forcibly took him back to pagan Ireland where he was sold as a slave. His master ordered him to tend his sheep, which he did until a voice spoke to him and instructed him to escape. He fled at the age of twenty-two.

St. Patrick felt that these six difficult years were the result of the sins of his early youth. His time as a shepherd proved to be a conversion experience. He had strayed from God and returned. He had prayed infrequently, and then prayed morning, noon, and night. While he may have thought that his hardships were punishment, shepherding can be a deeply spiritual experience and God has used shepherding to groom the leaders of the future.

Shepherding is an outdoor job. A shepherd experiences the sunrise and the sunset, hillsides and forests, green meadows and blooming flowers, billowing clouds, gentle breezes, softly falling showers, angry clouds, furious winds, pounding rains, lightning bolts, thunder claps, raging rivers, and rainbows across the sky. Creation reveals its Maker. It is an experience of the transcendent. Shepherds are led to God.

Shepherding provides solitude, quiet time to pray and meditate, not only to speak to God but to listen attentively without distraction.

Shepherding teaches leadership, how to take charge, be responsible, lead and guide, make adjustments, respond to crisis, and make critical decisions.

Shepherding teaches self-sacrifice, service gladly given, as well as a willingness to lay down one’s life to protect the sheep from wild predatory animals and rustlers.

Shepherding teaches self-sufficiency. No one else is there to do the work. A shepherd accepts the task and completes it.

Shepherding teaches the value of the common good. A shepherd cares for the entire flock, guides all of the sheep to green pastures and watering holes by day, and to pens or caves by night. A shepherd keeps the flock together and does not allow any sheep to wander off alone.

Shepherding teaches care and concern. Shepherds provide individualized attention, recognize differences in appearance and temperament, and works for the betterment of each sheep.

Shepherding teaches humility. It is a lowly job. There is no status, recognition, or popularity. Many look down on shepherds. It is can be extremely lonely.

Two of the greatest figures of the Old Testament were shepherds. Moses tended the flock of his father-in-law Jethro in Midian (Ex 3:1), and David tended the flock of his father Jesse in Bethlehem (1 Sm 16:11). After learning how to lead a flock of sheep, Moses was prepared to lead the Israelites for forty years on the exodus journey from Egypt to the Promised Land and David was prepared to lead Israel for forty years as its greatest king.

Likewise, shepherding prepared St. Patrick to lead the church of Ireland, which he did for twenty-nine years (432 to 461). It was his mission to preach Jesus, the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11,14), to help others to hear the voice of Jesus and to follow in his paths.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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