St. Patrick

St. PatrickI came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others. If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ’s name.

From the Confession of St. Patrick

Who is St. Patrick?

Saint Patrick was born Maewyn Succat at the end of the 4th century in Scotland, and would later take the name Patrick. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was sold to a chieftain in Dalriada, a territory in what is now the county of Antrim in Ireland, where he was put to work tending his master’s flocks. Alone in the hills of Ireland, Patrick spent much of his time in prayer, growing deeper in Faith, as related in his Confessio:

The love of God and His fear increased in me more and more, and the Faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me.”

Though he could not know it at the time, these years of service prepared Patrick for his future ministerial work. He learned to speak the language of Ireland, which would later help him to spread the Word of God to the inhabitants. As a slave, Patrick’s master Milchu was a druidical high priest and this brought Patrick knowledge of the false religion from which he would later liberate the Irish.

After six years, Patrick had a dream in which he was commanded to go to England; he escaped and returned to the British mainland. Once in England, Patrick studied in several monasteries, studying in Europe as well, and eventually became a priest and then a bishop. He was instructed by Pope Celestine to travel and evangelize throughout England and Ireland. St. Odran was his chariot driver and St. Jarlath one of his spiritual students.

Patrick worked the next 33 years, spreading the Gospel and teaching the Faith and converted much of Ireland. In time, due to St. Patrick following God’s will, Ireland became known as the Land of the Saints, and during the early middle ages its monasteries were considered the great repositories of learning in Europe. The popular legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland was a later development. This may have derived from the fact that the serpent was a symbol of Druidism, the Celtic religion from which Patrick converted the Irish.

Adapted from the Catholic Encyclopedia and the Patron Saint Index

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