‘I am Patrick’ is a movie on the life of Saint Patrick that goes on release at selected cinemas in the United States on 17th and 18th March. It is also due for release on NETFLIX in Ireland and the UK on 12th March. Much like a papal encyclical, the title of the film comes from the first words of Patrick’s Confessio where he introduces the reader to the story of his life with the words ‘I am Patrick, I am a sinner, the most unsophisticated and least among all Christians’. In my view, the movie is the best effort yet to tell the story of one of the most fascinating saints of the early Church and whose missionary successes in Ireland influenced thousands and still do to this day.
I am proud to be associated with this film. In 2013, I completed my doctoral thesis with a work entitled: ‘The Experience of God in the Writings of Saint Patrick’. In this study, I explored the writings of St Patrick from a Scriptural, theological and spiritual perspective. Yet it was not just his words but his story that always enchanted me ever since I first heard it as a young boy in Ireland. On the completion of my academic work, I was delighted to share the story of Patrick to a wider audience outside Ireland, albeit in an academic field. Roll on a few years later to the Spring of 2018 when I received a call from the US from Jarod Anderson, a movie director from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Jarod explained to me that he and his team were making a movie on the life of St Patrick and were interested in talking to me during a tour of Ireland where they were filming for the movie. Some commentary from a three and a half hour interview is included in the final cut.
To see the film finally being released is a great joy and a unique opportunity to remind ourselves of the story of Patrick’s life that was transformed by God’s grace. The film focuses on the real events from his life as told by himself and so cuts through the layers of spurious legends about St Patrick that have obscured the real historical figure that he was and that also confuses how we celebrate him with costumes, parades and pageants each year on 17th March.
The great strength of the film is the presentation of Patrick not as a plaster saint but as a real person who knew suffering through exile and injustice; who offered forgiveness and mercy back to the people who had stolen his youth; who loved the Irish and identified as one of them, refusing to leave the country and remaining with his people; who discovered meaning in his Christian faith at a time of crisis; who contemplated the mystery of Jesus Christ as a life poured out for others and modelled his own life on Christ in the service of the Irish people; who teaches us how our response to our vocation directly impacts on others and how mission matters. These are just some of the ways that Patrick’s story inspires us still and gives us the courage to persevere in our vocations and to be missionaries like him.
I hope you enjoy ‘I am Patrick’ as much as I did being involved in its making. I conclude with a chapter from St Patrick’s Confessio that glorifies God for the ways in which he chose Patrick to be his instrument to bring the Christian faith to our ancestors. May St Patrick intercede for all the Christians of Ireland and for all Irish people at home and abroad. May we accept and co-operate with God’s divine power to become courageous missionaries in our day like he was in his.
‘And so I thank my God without ceasing who preserved me as his faithful one on the day of my trial so that today I can offer a sacrifice to him with confidence. [Today] I offer my soul as a living victim to Christ my Lord who preserved me in all my troubles so that I can say: ‘Who am I Lord and what is my vocation that you have co-operated with me with such divine [power]? Thus today I constantly praise and glorify your name wherever I may be among the nations both in my successes and my difficulties. So whatever happens to me-good or ill- I ought to accept with an even temper and always give thanks to God who has shown me that I can trust him without limit or doubt’ (chap. 34).