The moon shone in a soft glow of silver light as he made his way to the seashore. His little foot caught on a root making him stumble but he knew better than to cry out. The blood trickling down his knee made no impression on his childish face. He had a mission. And he was going to accomplish it. As he neared the shoreline, he could dimly see the gleam of the waves rolling up onto the beach. He scanned the horizon, gazing intently into the darkness. There it was! The shadowy outline of a ship coming into the bay. Quickly he hid in the bushes nearby and waited for what seemed like an eternity. His eyes began to shut but he shook himself and forced them open. He must stay alert.
Slowly a boat was being rowed from the ship. He counted those inside. There were five of them he thought. No! There were six! Six men. The boat came up to the bank and the men dragged it ashore. He craned his neck for a better look.
CRASH! With a muffled shriek he tumbled out of the bushes, losing his hold.
“Deaglan!” One of the men shouted his name. “What are you doing here?”
Slowly he got to his feet and met the gaze of his father.
“I wanted to see you.” His voice quavered a little. “Did you have a successful time in Britannia?”
Fergus grunted and a smile played around the corners of his mouth.
“Yes son, I had quite a successful time. I even got a new slave.”
“A slave?” Deaglan’s eyes turned to the sixth man. He was young. His head was held high and a defiant gleam was in his bright eyes. Yet there was something more in those eyes. Fear.
“What is his name?” Somehow Deaglan felt a sense of admiration towards this young man from another land.
“His name?” Fergus laughed “What do you want to know his name for?”
“Patraic I believe it is.”
“Patricius.” Everyone turned to the young man as he spoke, his voice strong and proud.
“Patricius,” he repeated, and then unleashed a torrent of words incomprehensible to his listeners.
Deaglan’s father laughed again.
“Well, there you have it. Patricius.”
Deaglan slowly followed his father’s men back to the village. Perhaps this new slave would be able to tell him stories of the land beyond the sea. But soon his feet began to drag with weariness and the next thing he remembered was his father’s strong arms lifting him up to carry him home.
25 years later…
Deaglan woke up to see the sunlight streaming through the rafters of his thatched blackhouse. Squinting he rolled over. He might as well get up. Pulling on his tunic, he reached over for his dagger and strapped it securely about his waist. Making his way outside, he started off toward the cliffs that lined the seashore.
The air was crisp and clear. Deaglan breathed deeply as he surveyed the green fertile land of Wicklow. His home. Sitting on the edge of a precipice he gazed out over the Irish Sea. His mind wandered back to that morning so long ago when he had first met Patricius.
He had been only five years old, yet the event was still clear in his memory as if it had happened only yesterday. He had been captivated by the Britain slave. Deaglan remembered when Patricius had learned enough Gaelic to hold a conversation with him. He had told him stories of when he was a child growing up in Britannia. For six years he had lived in Wicklow. Six years. And then one day he was gone. People said that he had run away and no one knew whether or not he was still alive. If only he had not left.
Deaglan remembered something that Patricius had told him once. Something about a man named Christus. Deaglan wished he had told him more, but Patricius had always seemed a little hesitant to speak of Christus. At first, he had not spoken of Him at all but gradually as the years went by, he mentioned His name with more and more frequency. Sighing Deaglan walked slowly back to his cottage. Going inside he could see the stooped figure of his father sitting on the bed.
“Where have you been son?” his voice was weak, but it still rang with the authority it had held in former days.
“I went to the cliffs for a few minutes,” replied Deaglan
“Why you have been gone for almost an hour. I heard that there is a ship coming in today, but I am not sure where it is coming from. Would you go and see it for me?”
“Of course father.”
Taking a loaf of bread from the table, Deaglan set out for the shoreline. The sea was calm and clear and he could see it stretching out as far as the horizon. Yes, there was a ship coming. Already he could see men lowering a boat from its side. Sitting down on the sand Deaglan cut a slice of bread and waited for the boat to arrive. There were about six men there he thought. He could see them dragging it up the beach. One of the men seemed to be older than the rest. His beard was streaked with grey but his eyes were a brilliant blue. He walked erect and strong and gazed at the land as though he knew it well.
“I might as well ask him about the ship,” thought Deaglan “He would know as well as any.”
He walked up to the man. The stranger looked up and met his gaze. Deaglan stopped in shock. It could not be. He had been gone for so long. Yet that face… older, more mature yes, but he knew that face.
“Patricius!” Deaglan started to run across the sands. His friend, his companion, why had he returned?
“Deaglan! Is that you? It has been a long time my friend!”
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I have come to tell your people about Christus” Patricius replied his face shining with radiant joy.
“Christus.” Somehow Deaglan felt drawn to that name. He couldn’t place his finger on it yet he knew he wanted to hear more about this man.
“Let’s go to my cottage. We can talk more there.”
Patricius shook his head. “That would not be wise. Your father was quite hostile to me. He might end my mission before it has even begun.” He laughed softly “Not that I am afraid to die.”
“Patricius who is Christus?” Deaglan felt he had to know.
The older man looked at him for a moment, a gentle smile on his face.
“I will tell you.”
For the next three hours, Patricius told Deaglan the most wonderful story he had ever heard. A story of a man who never did any wrong, how for years He worked among His people, how He did good wherever He went, how the people grew to hate Him, how they killed Him in the most brutal way but that this was God’s plan to save people from their sins, and how after three days he came back to life and ascended to heaven as the Son of God.
“Deaglan,” Patricius placed his strong hand on his friend’s shoulder. Christus did this for you.
“For you and me and anyone else who would believe. Because he loves you.”
Deaglan looked away as tears clouded his vision. He could never have imagined such love.
He turned to Patricius. “I need to think about this.”
“Very well. I would be happy to tell you more sometime.”
“Patricius why did you come back?”
Patricius looked out at the sea. The sun reflecting off the water cast a glorious light towards the shore. “I did not wish to come back at first. I remembered you as the ones who had taken me from my family and my home. But then I had a dream. It was so real that at first, I thought that I was really back in Ireland again. There was a man standing there. He spoke to me in Gaelic and said, “Holy servant boy, come back and walk among us.” It was then that I realized my mission. So I came and I intend to stay.”
“For coming back to tell us how to be forgiven.”
Patricius looked deep into Deaglan’s eyes.
“I have not been here even a day and already I see the work God is doing among this nation. My friend, if you are the only one that accepts this message that I bring, It will be worth every second of the effort. Farewell for now. I will see you again soon.”
As the Briton turned and walked away Deaglan marveled at the courage of this man. He knew the risks, yet he was willing to come and tell the people that had enslaved him how to be set free.
Starting back for his home Deaglan suddenly realized that he had forgotten to find out the reason the ship had come.
Strange, it somehow did not seem important anymore.
Deaglan opened the door to the cottage. His father was there waiting for him.
“Where have you been son?”
Deaglan took a deep breath. He needed to tell him what Patricius had said.
“Father, have you ever heard of a man named Christus?”
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Mathew 28:16-20