Saint Patrick the Forgiver, Retold and Illustrated by Ned Bustard. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2023.
Summary: A re-telling of the story of Saint Patrick, who returned to the Irish who had enslaved him, having forgiven them and preaching forgiveness through the work of Christ.
For many, Saint Patrick’s Day is a day of wearing green, of shamrocks, and drinking green beer. Chicago even dies its river green. It’s a day of partying, and drunkenness. And in it, the story of Saint Patrick, missionary to Ireland is lost. Ned Bustard, author of Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver does for Patrick what he did earlier with Saint Nicholas. He retells the story of Patrick, with eight lines of verse on the right page accompanied by one of his woodcut illustrations on the left in a read aloud book that children and parents alike will enjoy.
We learn of a young boy in Britain, of wild heart though raised in the church, carried off to slavery in Ireland. Laboring as a shepherd, God’s Spirit gives grace and faith tp believe and eventually sends him a vision that a ship is ready to take him home, and after a two hundred mile walk, he finds it is so. He is joyfully reunited with his parents and would have remained so were it not for another vision of an Irish man carrying a letter saying, “Come walk again among us.” And so we come to the central crisis of Patrick’s life, his unforgiving heart for the people who had enslaved him. And then:
In grace God did remind me that forgiveness is a gift. The holy brothers taught me true and my heart began to shift. To the Irish I returned with a Bible and a bell. Because God had forgiven me then I could forgive as well.
He recounts the favor he encountered as the High King’s son believes and gives him a barn to start a church. We learn how he used the shamrock to illustrate the Trinity. He also recounts the stories told of him driving snakes into the sea and baptizing the “naughty giant.” He summarizes his life as one of telling his Irish flock of Christ’s forgiveness, setting up schools and churches throughout the land, such that the old pagan ways have died out. These are the closing pages of the book, inspired perhaps by St. Patrick’s hymn, “Strength of Heaven”:
The simple rhyme scheme makes this an enjoyable read aloud book, enhanced by the richly detailed full color woodcuts. Printed on high quality paper and hardbound, I can see this becoming one of the books a family treasures sharing together. The story, centered around forgiveness, celebrates the real Saint Patrick, whose obedience from a transformed heart leads to a transformed country, and if How the Irish Saved Civilization is accurate, preserved learning and faith in Europe.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.
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