St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world’s most popular saints. He was born in Roman Britain and when he was 14 or so, was captured by Irish pirates during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. At the time, Ireland was a land of druids and pagans but Patrick turned to God and wrote his memoir, ‘The Confession’. In ‘The Confession’, he wrote:
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was 20, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain and he was reunited with his family.
A few years after returning home, Patrick saw a vision he described in his memoir as:
“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish’. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea-and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.'”
This vision prompted his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, under whom he had studied for years, and was later ordained a bishop and sent to take the Gospel to Ireland.
Patrick arrived in Slane, Ireland on March 25, 433. There are several legends about what happened next; with the most prominent claiming he met the chieftain of one of the druid tribes, who tried to kill him. After an intervention from God, Patrick was able to convert the chieftain and preach the Gospel throughout Ireland. There, he converted many people -eventually thousands – and he began building churches across the country.
He often used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity and entire kingdoms were eventually converted to Christianity after hearing Patrick’s message.
Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died on March 17, 461.
He died at Saul, where he had built the first Irish church. He is believed to be buried in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick. His grave was marked in 1990 with a granite stone.
In his footsteps:
Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. So complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission, he feared nothing -not even death.
“The Breastplate,” Patrick’s poem of faith and trust in God:
“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
Feast Day March 17
Patron of Ireland
Birth: 387 AD
Death: 461 AD