I Am Patrick: the Patron Saint of Ireland, a new docudrama about the life of St. Patrick, will be released in 930 theaters nationwide in the United States March 17-18, 2020. Produced by CBN Films and directed by Jarrod Anderson, the film tells Patrick’s story through historical reenactments, expert interviews, and Patrick’s own writings. Three different actors portray Patrick from his youth, to middle age, to later years: Robert McCormack (Irish Crime), Sean T. O’Meallaigh (Vikings), and John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings). Anderson explained, “From a life of comfort to enslavement to a faith that changed a nation, this is the true story of the saint you thought you knew.”
The story opens in 5th-century Britain, where a teenage Patrick is living a life of comfort as the son of a government official. He is Catholic, but his faith means little to him. At age 16, Patrick is kidnapped by pirates, and sent to live a life of slavery in Ireland. Patrick works as a shepherd for six years, nearly starving, after which he turns to his faith and through divine intervention manages to escape. He has an emotional reunion with his family in Britain, followed by a prophetic dream inviting him to return to his land of captivity to bring Christianity. Despite the objections of his family and some fellow Catholics, he returns to Ireland to begin the process of converting the nation.
Visit IAmPatrick.com to watch the trailer and for tickets, locations and showtimes.
Gordon Robertson is the executive producer of I Am Patrick. He is president and CEO of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), a member of CBN’s board of directors and president of Operation Blessing, CBN’s humanitarian organization. A former practicing attorney, Robertson moved to the Philippines in 1994 to found CBN Asia. He lives in Virginia, and recently spoke to CWR about I Am Patrick.
CWR: Why did you want to do this movie?
Gordon Robertson: Patrick has long been a hero of mine. Twenty-five years ago, a friend gave me a copy of his Confessio, or Confession, in which he writes about his life. I was a missionary in India, and his Confession spoke to me. He was preaching in an environment where people didn’t know God, and didn’t know Scripture. I began using his famous prayer (“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me…”) before I preached.
CWR: What did you learn about Patrick in the process of making this film?
Robertson: I came to see how incredibly heroic he was. He must have had tremendous courage to do all he did.
Patrick was taken as a slave when he was a boy, managed to escape and by divine guidance, made it home. Back in England, his future was secure. He came from a family of means, and had all he needed to provide for himself.
However, he decided to give it all up, and go back to the people who had enslaved him and preach the Gospel. He returned, unarmed and traveling through hostile country, where he could be killed or enslaved once again. Every day, his life was on the line.
CWR: What message does Patrick have for us today?
Robertson: Two things come to mind. First off, in his letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, he took a strong stand against sex trafficking. … He also took a strong stand against slavery. This is fascinating, as he was writing in the 5th century…
CWR: The practice of Christianity has declined in Ireland in recent generations. Is this film a call to re-evangelize Ireland?
Robertson: It’s a call to re-evangelize the whole world. I hope it will prompt more people to devote their lives to missionary work. It could be in England, Ireland, the United States or any other part of the world. There are many un-reached groups out there, as well as plenty who have abandoned the faith and need to be called to return. The need is great, but what are lacking are people willing to take up the task. As it says in Matthew 9:38, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”
That is what Patrick did. And, in the 5th century, Ireland was one of the remotest parts of the world. Patrick went there to make Christ known.
CWR: Where did you film, and what challenges did you have in filming?
Robertson: Everything was filmed on location in England and Ireland. We wanted to be as historically accurate as possible, so we went to the places where Patrick lived and evangelized.
In Ireland, we went to County Mayo, County Galway, and County Clare, all places with historical ties to Patrick. In England, we built a Roman villa, similar to what Patrick’s home would have been like when he was a boy. His father was a Roman patrician who collected taxes, and would have lived in a building like that.
Our biggest problem was the weather. These are places that get a lot of rain, so we were always hoping for a sunny day on which to shoot, or looking for ways to film around the rain. Our closing scene on the coast we filmed on a rainy day, but we got lucky as the sun burst forth and the sunset appeared, while waves crashed on the rocks below. It was a special moment.
CWR: How did you select the three actors who portrayed Patrick?
Robertson: Our director, Jarrod Anderson, oversaw the auditions. We wanted to start with the narration, and thought John Rhys-Davies would be a fantastic narrator. We wanted to lay down that track before we shot principal photography. As we listened to the narration, we thought John would be perfect for our older Patrick. John was excited about the project, and loved the script and what we were trying to do. When he agreed to be our older Patrick, it was a galvanizing moment.
Sean O’Meallaigh is our middle-aged Patrick. His audition tape really stood out. Ten years before, he had played a younger Patrick for Irish TV. He was familiar with the story line.
And, Robert McCormack is our young Patrick. He was a natural for the role.
CWR: Who ought to go see this film?
Robertson: It is for anyone who wants to have a deeper understanding of who St. Patrick is, and what his life must have been like. If someone who thinks St. Patrick’s Day is merely about shamrocks and green beer, they’re far away from the historical Patrick.
It’s also for anyone with a cultural tie to Christianity and Europe, particularly in Ireland and Scotland. Without St. Patrick, the church in those countries would have been very different. Patrick pioneered preaching in the local dialect, and also taught people to read Scripture.
Patrick helped create the great intellectual and monastic and evangelical tradition from which the faith grew. One of my favorite books is Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, which talks about Ireland’s important role in maintaining Western culture during the dark ages.
Patrick brought the faith to a pagan, violent culture. His is a story of courage and perseverance. He shows us that with God, nothing is impossible.
CWR: How do you think the film turned out?
Robertson: I was pleased. John Rhys-Davies is great. He carries much emotion in his voice; his persona is fantastic.
The movie emphasizes the importance of evangelism, of baptism, and of always going on to the next village. It gets to the essence of what Patrick wrote about himself. He starts his Confession very humbly, “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner…” Yet, he went on to accomplish a great work. His is a story of humility, compassion, courage, and especially inspiration.
CWR: You chose to tell the story in Patrick’s words, rather than relying on legends.
Robertson: Yes. As storytellers, we could have chosen to tell the story based on legends, but we chose to use his actual words. Two writings of his have survived, his Confession and Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. This film is based mostly on the Confession. We did add some things, such as when he lights a fire on a hill against the orders of a Druid king. But, we thought there were enough historical sources to support this, so we included it.
When you watch this film, you’ll hear what Patrick wrote about himself. You will see the man as related by his own words. Even the title of the film, I Am Patrick, was selected because that’s how he begins his Confession.
CWR: What else would you like to share about the film?
Robertson: Patrick is recognized as a saint by all churches. I encourage the public to go and hear his story, see what inspired him and how God spoke to him.
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But is the movie sanitized of its Catholicism in order to make it appeal more to other denominations? If so then it loses its authenticity and true evangelism.
In those days, before the church had split up into Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, the correct description is Christian.
St. Ignatius called the early church Catholic in the first century. I don’t particularly care about the Irish these days, who once chose to die rather than bring shame to St. Patrick but now sceam with delight at abortion legalization.
What is this nonsense about ‘England’? Patrick is most likely to have been a Briton from the nominally Christian kingdom of Strathclyde ie Ystrad Clud in modern south west Scotland which was the subject of intense raiding by the Scotti ie Irish. He had no connexion with England and as for the Roman patrician bit, pure filmic fancy. The language he spoke was related to modern Welsh.
Sounds as if this opus will be as ‘factual’ as the Two Popes and the Young Pope.
I’d venture that Saint Patrick (Maewyn Succat) was raised in Brittany. He names his father’s home Bannavem Tiburniae’ in Latin.” That is Bonavenna de Tiberio. Today it is called Chateau de Bonaban near St Malo. Remember too that Patrck was the nephew of Saint Martin of Tours, brother of Conchessa his mother. Martin’s homeland was Pannonia, ancient Hungary roughly. Patrick spent time with his uncle before going to Rome to see Pope Celestine I. It was in Rome where he changed his name to Patrcius and was ordained.
I have seen the film and, while it aims to tell the true story of Patrick, it misses by a long shot. This is a Protestantized version of his life that relies solely on his Confessions and nothing else (sound familiar?). The fifth century Christian liturgical rites, apparently, only consisted of the Pater Noster, because that’s all we see them doing. John Rhys-Davies’ considerable acting abilities are sorely underutilized because we only see him sitting and writing, or walking alone along abandoned fields and seashores. I was hoping that this would be something like Paul McCusker’s The Trials of St. Patrick, the audio drama produced by the Augustine Institute. Nothing of the sort. Setting up a “obey God or obey men” (as in Patrick’s ecclesiastical superiors) conundrum for a saint who willingly obeyed his superiors is a typical Protestant move that simply doesn’t work in this situation. (This is not meant as a slam on Protestants, but this is typical of their thinking because Luther.) The story goes that a bishop who was jealous of him tried to oust him, but that failed, not because of said conundrum but because Patrick was faithful and the jealous guy overplayed his hand. Patrick’s life was a rich one — this film about him is extremely impoverished.