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RICHARD BENNETT, a native of Ireland and a former Roman Catholic priest for over 20 years who is now a believer in the Gospel of Free and Sovereign Grace and a Bible-believing Christian apologist, author and popular conference speaker, will address the theme: "SAINT PATRICK: The Man Behind the Myth".
Ireland has a very distinctive history. It was an island untouched by the Roman legions, and Patrick, the Evangelist, brought to it the Gospel of grace. Patrick was himself descended from a family that had been, for two generations at least, in Christ Jesus. His father, he tells us was “the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a presbyter, of the settlement of Ban*naven Tab*ur*niae.” These facts are recorded in Patrick’s own testimony of faith. This authentic document is preserved in five manuscripts. This authenticated document is the main source of both the person and the mission of Patrick, and also his clear statement of the Gospel of grace.
Patrick was born in the year 373 in a town on the River Clyde in Roman Britain, now a part of Scotland. When he was sixteen years old, Patrick was captured by a band of pirates who sold him to a chieftain in what is now county Antrim in Northern Ireland. For six years he tended flocks. In his testimony he tells us, “I was taken captive before I knew what I should desire and what I should shun.” It was during the time of his captivity that he turned from his careless ways and came to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. He was convicted that he was a sinner. In his own words,
“before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and He that is mighty came and in His mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for His great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.”
Patrick, like so many of the godly men of history, found God’s favor in the riches of the grace of Christ. This was the theme echoing throughout the testimony of Patrick, in his own words “I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace.”
He then grew in the grace of God. Having believed on “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” he directly received “of his fullness…grace for grace.” In his own words,
“More and more did the love of God, and my fear of Him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, , as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.”
Patrick knew himself as a sinner and found salvation where only sinners find it, “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The first words of his testimony read, “I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many.”
Likewise, in the beginning of his letter to Coroticus he states, “I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland”.
Quite clearly Patrick saw himself as a sinner. He did not look to some spark of life from within himself or to some ritual; rather, he looked unto Christ Jesus. Patrick’s words: “unspeakable glory of life everlasting which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” shows his distinct and personal comfort and courage in Christ.
Totally unlike religion that looks to rituals, Patrick had his eyes set on the Lord. Patrick saw himself only as a sinner saved by grace in Christ Jesus. Patrick’s message is that salvation is totally in Christ alone--a message utterly diverse from that of Roman Catholicism then and now.
Listen to today's fascinating interview with former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett as he reveals the true history and legacy of the one we now call "Saint Patrick", and how he brought the Gospel of Free Grace to the Irish people.
Richard Bennett hails from Ireland, where he was trained by Jesuits in his early years. He then received eight years of theological instruction and preparation for the priesthood with the Dominicans, completing his education at the Angelicum University in Rome in 1964. He spent twenty-one years as a Roman Catholic parish priest in Trinidad W. I. He had, therefore, the best of academic training in things Catholic, plus twenty-one years of being a parish priest applying Catholic teachings to everyday life. After a serious accident in 1972, in which he nearly lost his life, he began to study seriously the Bible. After fourteen years of contrasting Catholicism to Biblical truth, he was convicted by the Gospel message in 1986. He was then saved by God’s grace alone, and formally left the Roman Catholic Church and its priesthood. He has founded an evangelistic ministry to Catholics called “Berean Beacon” (www.bereanbeacon.org).