The Story St. Patrick is one of our best known and least understood Christian saints. A part of our party calendar. A celebration of all things Irish. But Patrick was a bishop of the Church and a tireless worker for the kingdom of God. Patrick was born in Roman Britain about the year 387 A.D., the son of a Roman official and Deacon named Calpornius and grandson of a priest named Potitus. It is believed he was born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton in Scotland.
The Story As a young lad of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland, where he worked for six years as shepherd, perhaps near Slemish in County Antrim. During that time he learned their language.
The Story Ireland, at that time, was a land of Druids and other pagans. Patrick admits that as a child he was not particularly religious. As a slave of the pagan Irish, Patrick learned to pray daily and over time his faith grew. In one of his two letters that we have, he wrote about this time: “…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.”
The Story After six years of slavery, Patrick heard a voice telling him that he would be going home soon. Fleeing his captivity, he traveled, some say, two hundred miles to a port, where a ship was found to take him home to England. Now in his early twenties he was returned to his family. His time of captivity prepared Patrick for his eventual return to Ireland.
The Story A few years after returning home, Patrick had a vision. From his letter he wrote, “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.”
The Story Sometime around the year 433 A.D., Patrick, now an ordained priest and sent by Pope St. Celestine I, landed at the Vantry River, near the Wicklow Head. He was met by the hostile Druids.
The Story Patrick first returned to Slemish, County Antrim and paid his own ransom to the Irish chief who had years before had kidnapped him. The stories of Patrick’s mission to Ireland are well known. One story is how he banished all the snakes from Ireland. In reality, there were no snakes there at that time. Snakes probably refers to the Druids.
The Story Another well known story was Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.
The Story Other than his two letters, we have his bell, a national treasure in Ireland.
The Story Patrick died on March 17, probably in the year 460 A.D. He was loved by the Irish Christians. St. Brigid prepared his burial shroud with her own hands. Patrick was laid to rest in County Down, at a place that is now the Down Cathedral.
Remember Let us remember the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, for the lost and the lonely! We have good news to share!! We have the story of our faith. We have the history of how good our God has been to us and how that has made a difference in our lives. Remember we are in a mission field, a field growing larger every year as this country turns away from traditional Christianity, the faith in which we were born, nurtured and nourished. Remember the risk of the pagans around us. Their salvation is at risk. How can we stand by idly?
Prayer O heavenly Father, in your goodness you gave to your Holy Church and to us, the life, ministry and death of this champion of our faith, Bishop St. Patrick, who worked so hard to bring your love, hope and healing to those who walked in faithless darkness. Help us, in our time, to imitate his hard work and faithfulness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen