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Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick
  • Century: 4th & 5th Century
  • Patronage: Against Snakes, Against Witchcraft, Ireland, Nigeria, Archdiocese of New York, Engineers, Paralegal
  • Feast Day: March 17th

St. Patrick was a Catholic Bishop in Ireland.  He is known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, and he is the primary saint of Ireland along with St. Brigid and Columba.  The details of his life come from two authentic letters from St. Patrick himself.  When he was 16, he was captured from his home and taken as a slave to Ireland.  He lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family.  After a time, he studied the faith and became a cleric, and returned to northern and western Ireland as an ordained Bishop.  The two letters in Latin that survive are called the “Declaration” and the “Letter to the soldiers of Corocticus”. 

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain.  Calpornius, his father, was a Deacon, and his grandfather Potitus was a Priest.  He worked as a herdsman, remaining a captive slave for six years.  He writes that his faith grew in captivity, and that he prayed daily.  After six years he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready.  Fleeing his master, he traveled to a port two hundred miles away, where he found a ship.  He returned home to his family, now in his early twenties.  St. Patrick also recounts a vision he had a few years after returning home. “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 that 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”.   It is believed that the Victoricus of St. Patrick’s vision was St. Victoricus, Bishop of Rouen in the late forth century.  

From these same writings, something can be seen of St. Patrick’s mission.  He writes that he “Baptized thousands of people”.  He ordained Priests to lead the new Christian communities.  He converted wealthy women, some of who became Nuns in the face of family opposition.  He also dealt with the sons of Kings, converting them too.  His life was not an easy one, as a foreigner in Ireland.  He refused to accept gifts from Kings.  Legally he was without protection and he says in his letter that he was on one occasion beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains awaiting execution, all because he didn’t accept bribes and gifts from Kings.   

St. Patrick died on March 17th, 460.  Legend credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock.  It is a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God.  For this reason, shamrocks are a central symbol for St. Patrick’s Day.  St. Patrick’s Day is observed all over the world on March 17th, the date of his death.  It is one of the few Feast Days, that is celebrated both as a liturgical and non-liturgical holiday.  In the diocese of Ireland, it is both a Solemnity, and a Holy Day of Obligation.  

Practical Take Away 

St. Patrick was from Roman Britain.  When he was 16, he was captured from his home and taken as a slave to Ireland.  He lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family.  After a time, he studied the faith and became a cleric, and returned to northern and western Ireland as an ordained Bishop.  He left behind two writings, which are from him.  He talks about baptizing thousands of people and converting many.  Many Churches were built and Priests ordained to care for the spiritual needs of the early Christians.  He is the patron St. of Ireland.