Saint Patrick


Saint Patrick was born in Britian to a Roman family. The exact place of his birth varies by tradition - in one he was born near Glannoventa (modern Ravenglass), another near Carlisle, and another at Bridoswald. His father Calpurnius was a Roman Catholic deacon and decurion and his grandfather a priest from Bonaven Tabernia. Even surrounded by so much Church leadership in his family, Saint Patrick did not grow up as a believer. He spent his youth in selfishness, embracing the many opportunities a young man had. This lifestyle would dramatically change when he turned 16.


Shortly after his 16th birthday, Saint Patrick was captured by a raiding group of Irish pirates who took him back to Ireland as a slave. For the next six years Saint Patrick was enslaved as a herdsman in Ireland, suffering greatly at the hands of his master. In the Confession of Saint Patrick, he wrote that these six years, as awful as they were physically, were critical to his spiritual development and that God at this time offered him the opportunity to be forgiven for his youthful sins and become part of God's kingdom again.


After six years living enslaved, Saint Patrick heard a voice at night telling him that a ship had been prepared to take him home and it would soon be time for him to return to his homeland. In the middle of the night he fled his master and travelled nearly 200 miles to a port where he found a ship ready to travel. After three days of sailing he arrived in Britain. The next 28 days for Saint Patrick were just as harsh physically for him as the enslavement had been - he spent this time wandering in the wild lands nearly starving to death. He then found his path back to his family's home where he began to study Christianity in earnest.


A few years after returning home, he had a miraculous vision. Saint Patrick 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."

Saint Patrick left Britain at this time and travelled to mainland Europe where he visited Marmoutier Abbey in Tours and studied at Auxerre. He received tonsure at Lenris Abbey and was ordained to the priest by Saint Germanus of Auxurre, Bishop of the Western Church. After becoming ordained, Saint Patrick left at once to return to Ireland as missionary. Tradition holds the landed at Wicklow, County Wicklow, a the mouth of the river Inver-dea (now called Vartry). He did not receive a warm welcome initially and so travelled farther north to the islands of the Skerries coast. It was in the town of Saul he established his first church and sanctuary. Benin, son of the chieftain Secsnen, converted to Christianity and joined him in his missionary work here. The locals were believed to be initially hostile to him based on a prophecy given by the druids:


Across the sea will come Adze-head, crazed in the head,

his cloak with hole for the head, his stick bent in the head.

He will chant impieties from a table in the front of his house;

all his people will answer: "so be it, so be it."



Statue of Saint Patrick at Saul



Saint Patrick began evangelizing and baptizing with incredible zeal across Ireland. By his own account he personally baptized thousands of Irish. He not only took no payment for his work he actually used any wealthy or gifts given to provide gifts for pagan chieftains and kings and paid for their sons to accompany him in his travels. Continuing in his Confessions, Saint Patrick wrote of the Irish:


Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!




His journeys were not without danger - he had no legal protection in the land, was once beaten, another time robbed and once even placed in chains for 60 days. Towards the end of his life, Saint Patrick retired to Saul, home of his first church and wrote his "Confessions of Saint Patrick". His last rites were administrated by Saint Tussach (or Tassach, Tassac). It is traditionally held that Saint Patrick died on March 17th, the day still celebrated as his feast day. The feast day gained prominence due to the influence of the Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding who served as a member of the commission for the reform of the Breviary. Because Saints were canonized at the diocesan level for the first thousand years, Saint Patrick was never formally canonized by a Pope. He appears, however, in the List of Saints. Tradition holds that Saint Patrick was buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down along side Saint Brigid and Saint Columba.



Saint Patrick's Grave

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