“The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:36).
Pope Francis recently profiled the kind of bishops he wants for the church. No more bling, careerism or cushy lifestyles. First and foremost, a bishop is a servant of his people, a shepherd who leads from within the flock, smells like his sheep and shares their lives.
He might have been describing Patrick, apostle to Ireland (c. 389 – c. 461). The story of Patrick, before he became a bearded, mitered figure in green vestments at the head of the parade, is more amazing than the myths. Taken as a youth by pirates and brought to Ireland as a slave, he worked as a shepherd for six years before escaping. Ordained a priest, the pope sent him back to Ireland to evangelize the Celtic clans, which he did by preaching and by example. By the end of his life, the church had a firm footing in Irish soil.
Jesus tells his disciples that what they give away is what they will get back. Patrick poured out his life to bring the blessings of the Gospel to Ireland. The future of the nation came back to him and placed itself under his patronage. When all of Europe collapsed into what we call the Dark Ages, its heritage and faith was recorded by Irish monks to await revival in better times.
Ireland’s gift with language went forth to the ends of the earth in her poets, musicians and missionaries. Here is the measure of one good bishop, whose faith and service changed the world.