Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 03/01/24

Praying with Saint PatrickAaron Burns

Saints preserve us! As March is Irish Heritage Month and I happen to be taking off until the day after St. Patrick’s Day, it seems like a good time to run my conversation with faith-themed filmmaker Aaron Burns (Birthright Outlaw, Legacy Peak) about why he chose to co-author a book about the fifth-century Catholic icon called Praying with Saint Patrick: Prayers and Devotions Inspire by the Irish Hero of the Faith.

JWK: You’re known for producing and directing faith-themed movies, often with action elements like Birthright Outlaw and and Legacy Peak. What drew you to doing a prayer book inspired by St. Patrick?

Aaron Burns: That’s great question. Like I think it’s around 30-plus million Americans, every March 17th I claim to be Irish. Some of my ancestors are from Ireland but my actual Irish friends will laugh at me and say “No, stop it.” You know, growing up we’d wear our green shirt or have corned beef or something like that but had no idea if Patrick was anything more than a legend like Robin Hood or King Arthur. A number of years ago I came across the actual writings that he wrote from 1500 years ago and just was blown away by what I discovered there.

JWK: What did you discover?

AB: If I may, I’ll just give you a brief summary of his story. He wasn’t Irish. He was actually British. He grew up on the coast of Britain at the beginning of the Dark Ages – because of the Roman Empire. Patrick’s dad was a deacon. His grandpa was a pastor. They tried to teach him about the faith but he really didn’t want anything to do with it until he was captured by Irish pirates as a 16-year-old boy and spent the next seven years in slavery in Ireland. It was during that time that God brought to mind the things that they had taught him. It started to work in his heart and to transform his life.

After seven years, Patrick winds up miraculously escaping. Nobody came back from Ireland. Many were taken by these barbarians but no one came home. So, Patrick comes back and he starts to integrate into life in Britain. That’s when God, in a dream, comes and tells him “No, Patrick. You have have received My grace, My love and My mercy. I want you to go back and share that with the people who kidnapped you.”

Patrick obeys and winds up leaving, as a missionary, to go from Britain to Ireland to share that love with his former captors. Over the course of his lifetime, you see the human trafficking that Patrick was a victim of come to an end, you see child sacrifice come to an end and it really brings on the Golden Age of Saints and Scholars, as historians call it, where Irish missionaries and converts are sharing God’s love all over the island and then leaving Ireland and going back to the continent of Europe to places that had been devastated by other barbarian raids and things. So, it’s just an incredible story, a beautiful story – all (about) a man whose heart resonates so closely with ours and a faith that is so close, personal and real that you could talk with him, pray with him and laugh with him in your church today.

JWK: Did he actually get rid of the snakes in Ireland?

AB: That’s a good question. I had a chance to go to Ireland a couple of times. In my research, one of the symbols of one of the Druid gods that they worshiped was a three-headed snake. As far as we can tell, there was a Roman biologist or naturalist a hundred years or so before Patrick’s time that wrote a letter. By the way, they called it Hibernia. It seems that there were no snakes in Hibernia. So, chances are that Patrick did not drive physical snakes out of Ireland but (that notion) grew out of the idea that he drove the Celtic practices (involving) some of those ancient Irish gods out.

There’s kind of two or three sources, I’d say, of history for St. Patrick. So, of course, there’s much of the, quote-unquote, Dark Ages that’s been lost. A lot of documentation is not available – but, with Patrick, we know a surprising amount about him. We have two letters that he wrote that have multiple copies, similar maybe to the Old and New Testament that were carefully preserved by scribes, then we have a number of prayers that he and his followers wrote and then you have other corroborating evidence from records of kings and historical documents that are not from Church history but from secular history. Then, of course, there are all kinds of other legends that have grown up around him. So, parsing out the history from the legends is part of the adventure.

JWK: He was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church, right? It was before the time when the Church actually had an official canonization process and his elevation to sainthood was pretty much by acclamation of the people.

AB: That’s my understanding, yes. Everyone just recognized his walk with the Lord was so real and fervent…that there was no need to do anything else after that. The legacy spoke for itself.

JWK: When people get your book, what will they find? Will they find prayers that he actually wrote?

AB: It’s a great question. Let me take one step back and tell you (about) my heart for writing the book. In Patrick’s letter called Confession, he shares his life story. It leads up to a moment of conflict in the Church in his day. He was dealing with some local issues and challenges but he shares two brief prayer requests in this letter.

The first is that he would leave a spiritual legacy. He prayed that the people who he was ministering with would continue to stay faithful (and) would follow him as he followed Christ, so to speak. That prayer was answered with a resounding yes. As I said a moment ago, we saw the whole island transformed and God’s love just flowing in beautiful ways.

Then, toward the end of the letter, he has another prayer request. He says “I pray that anyone who reads these words of mine or hears about me wouldn’t think of me but would think of Christ.” When I was reading that I was convicted because when I hear of St. Patrick my first thought is leprechauns, parades, beer (and) the Chicago River dyed green. You know, all this nonsense. I say that prayer hasn’t been answered yet. So, to get to be a part of answering that prayer and to share with my kids and share with people all over what God did (through the life of) St. Patrick was a motivation for me to write this book.

JWK: So, what will people find when they open the book?

AB: We split it into about 40 individual readings where we have a snippet of Patrick’s own writings, then we have kind of a bit of his biography and then some application of thoughts and prayers for you to pray. It’s kind of a devotional/reflective biography – moving through his life by including his letters, his prayers and then individual thoughts for each day.

JWK: What do you hope people take from the book?

AB: I’ll tell you what I took from the book and from reading about his life – and I hope that others will do this as well. One, is just the confidence in the faith that you have. As you look back 1500 years, to see someone who wrestled and struggled the same way that you do and to see the way his faith proved out over time, we can put ourselves in his shoes and bring him back to our day – to see that Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever and to be able to see His example of courage through suffering, through waiting, through trials so that inspires us to be faithful the same way.

The second thing that I hope people are able to take is when they look at Patrick, the way God sent him to Ireland and called him to love those people, is that we’ll be able to ask ourselves the question where’s my Ireland? What has God called me to do? (And) to be inspired to answer that call the way that Patrick did?

Coming Attractions – Theaters

Cabrini (in theaters Friday, March 8th)

Arthur the King (in theaters Friday, March 15th)

One Life (in theaters Friday, March 15th)

Unsung Hero (in theaters on Friday, April 26th)

Coming Attractions – Streaming

The Bloody Hundredth (Streaming Friday, March 15th on Apple TV+)

Finding Love in Sisters (Streaming Friday, March 15th on Tubi, Canela TV and ACI On the Go)

The Baxters (Streaming on Amazon Prime on Thursday, March 28th)

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad