Fr. Chip Hines: ‘I Am Patrick’ teaches about conversion for young and old
The movie I Am Patrick (available on DVD) is a documentary chronicling the life of St. Patrick with dramatizations of moments from his life, as well as expert commentary from St. Patrick scholars. When I watch a documentary I am hoping to learn something new and this film does not disappoint.
Right from the start we get to see how he lived with his family in present day Great Britain which was on the very edge of the Roman Empire. He and his family are Roman citizens and his father is an official of the state. They are, in his words, really nominal Christians. They are living very worldly lives, owning slaves and dining well. It appears that Patrick was somewhat of a spoiled rich kid.
However, around the time he was 16, barbarian raiders from Ireland — the Celts — attack his family home and he is taken as a prisoner. Once on Irish shores, he is sold into slavery and made into a shepherd. His Celtic masters treat him poorly, giving him little food. It is here that Patrick realizes that he has neglected his faith and he turns back to God.
With a lot of divine intervention, he escapes his master and Ireland and manages to get back to his family after six years of servitude. At home he comes to understand that he cannot continue to live as he once did. Following a vision, he studies for the priesthood and he serves the Christian community in his homeland. But God has different plans for his life.
After Patrick is made a bishop he has another vision from God telling him to go back to Ireland and be a missionary presence there for the conversion of the Celts. Of course everyone thought he had lost his mind including his family and brother bishops but he was allowed to go and was even given monetary support for the mission.
This film is beautifully shot on location in Ireland and the beauty of the land is undeniable. The landscape and the colors really make you feel as if you are there walking with Patrick. The film is narrated and stars John Rhys-Davies whom you might remember from Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His role is that of the elder Patrick looking back on his life. Rhys-Davies does a wonderful job, giving a rich performance. He is the best known of all the actors in the film and probably the most accomplished.
The interviews are with St. Patrick scholars and authors. They offer great insight into the scenes being shown and as a documentary, they add a lot of the expertise you would expect. Of course the movie is only approximately 90 minutes long so producers could not film everything about St. Patrick’s life. However, this film can serve as an introduction to the great saint and I think it would be suitable for religious education classes with older children and certainly could be useful for adult enrichment especially during the month of March.
No documentary is perfect because of many factors, especially the time constraints, and so this is not a perfect film either. However, it is very good and I predict it will help many young people have a better grasp of the life of St. Patrick and what it means to have a conversion experience. It will help them understand how Patrick became a saint and for that alone it is worth seeing.
Actor John Rhys-Davies on playing ‘one of the great giants of western civilization’