When judged from the vantage-point of the New Testament, the entire medieval project of elevating some Christians to the status of “saints” is an illegitimate undertaking. In that yardstick of Christianity, all believers are “saints,” set apart for God and declared holy by virtue of union with Christ. A number of these “saints” were, of course, remarkable Christians. Though not worthy of the elite status accorded by the medieval Church, they are still men and women with whom we should be acquainted.
Take Patrick of Ireland, for example. A visit to New York City this past winter involved, as it often does when I go to Manhattan, a brief visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Christian after whom this imposing neo-Gothic edifice is named would be amazed at a lot of what goes on in this church: the Mariolatry, the votive candles for the dead, the statues (his own among them!)—how far removed from the Nicene Trinitarianism that Patrick took to Ireland.
While history has been enormously generous to Patrick—a patron saint celebrated by millions every March 17, for instance—it has also obscured the real man, who is found in one place: his two genuine writings, his Confession and his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. In these texts we see a man overwhelmed by the grace of his calling to be a minister of the gospel and a missionary to the Irish at the very edge of all the world that Patrick, a Romano-Brit, knew.
Get hold of those texts. Read them and be changed by his passions and his convictions.