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Discussion questions and activities for The Puzzles of St. Patrick

1. Patrick didn’t “give his life a thought” and then he sorely missed all the good things he had enjoyed when they were taken away. Sometimes we forget to be thankful for what we have. What are some things you are thankful for?

2. We all know about jigsaw puzzles. But what does “puzzle” mean in this book?

3. What did Patrick learn to do when he faced a puzzle? (e.g., pray, think, take action.)

4. Math Activity: Patrick began to pray “100 times a day”. Say that a typical day (daylight hours) is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. How many prayers did he average each hour?

5. Prayer Activity: Praying is talking to God, either aloud or silently. Prayers needn’t be long or memorized. It’s easy to touch base with God all day. Today keep a sheet of paper and pen handy. Each time even the tiniest prayer crosses you mind, write it down. (Speedy review of kinds of prayer: Adoration--praise, Confession--asking for forgiveness, Thanksgiving--gratitude, Supplication--request.) Think of examples together. At the end, collect pages and count. Select some and read aloud then or later.

6. What was the bravest or hardest thing Patrick did? Why?

7. Slavery Activity:

Part 1: As fast as you can for 3 minutes, make a list of all the activities/events that you look forward to in the next 7 years: e.g. celebrate birthdays, holidays. Vacation, travel, visit friends and family. Play sports, games, instruments. Scout, dance, act, sing, hike, read, ride, play, see movies, have pets, etc. Advance to middle school, high school (proms, homecoming, sports, etc.), college. Grow in size, intelligence and spiritual growth.

Part 2: Patrick was a slave for 7 years. He lost 7 years of his life. Now, one by one, cross off each item on your list that a slave could not do. Think of what your life would be like if you lost all those things in your life. What is still on the list?

Make a second list of what a slave faced: e.g. hard work, no pay, no friends & family, cold or extreme heat, hunger, what St. P called “nakedness” (i.e. not enough clothing to cover modesty or keep warm and comfortable), no appreciation or thanks, dangerous conditions, possible punishment, fear, sickness, physical suffering, unsanitary/unclean conditions.

This is the list of a slave. Think about the slavery that still exists today (usually illegally or hidden).

8. Slavery was widespread in the world of Patrick’s time. There was slavery in Briton, and Patrick’s servants may have been slaves. His world turned upside down when he became a slave. After gaining his freedom, he worked with slaves. We know from his second letter that he defended them fiercely, possibly earning enemies for doing so. Have you ever experienced opposite roles? (e.g. student/teacher, seller/buyer, audience/entertainer, cook/diner, helping someone/being helped, etc.) What did you learn from it? How did you feel? Discuss how changing perspective changes you.

9. Patrick had to forgive the people that enslaved him. Why is it hard to forgive? Could Patrick have spread God’s love in Ireland if he didn't learn to forgive? Think of something that you need to forgive. How would forgiving help you? How could it help the other person?

10. After Patrick escaped and got home, he felt left out and left behind. Do you ever feel like you can’t accomplish what others have? What did Patrick do about that?

11. Patrick's knowledge of the Irish language gave him an advantage when he returned to Ireland. Can a flaw or "weakness" ever turn out to be a blessing? Think of examples. Brainstorm as a group.

12. When Patrick returned home, he was different from his old schoolmates. Think of someone you know who is "different." Now think how that difference can be good in some way either for that person or for others. (Do not mention the name of the person.) Or, think of something different about yourself that you like or think could turn out to be good.