Faithful Heroes: Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick is one of the best known saints, because Saint Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated on the anniversary of his death. But, many who celebrate this day do not know about the life of Saint Patrick.
Saint Patrick was born in Britian in the 4th Century. His father Calpurnius, was a deacon. Some soures say he was born near Dumbarton, Scotland.
Patrick is not considered to have been his real name, but a name he adopted later. He always referred to himself as Patricius.
Patrick was not a believer of his family’s faith. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and enslaved. He was taken to Ireland and held captive for six years.
He later wrote that his time in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He spent the time in prayer and his relationship with God was strengthened.
Patrick wrote, “The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, 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 is said to work as a shepherd during his time in captivity.
After six years of captivity, Patrick heard a voice telling him to go home. He fled his captors and found a ship, persuading the captain to take him.
At the age of twenty, Patrick returned to his family. It is said that it took him twenty-eight days to walk home and he encountered great adventure and hunger.
Patrick recounts that he had a vision 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 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.”
Patrick began to study for the ministry, primarily studying at Auxerre, although he is said to have visited other Abbey’s.
Patrick returned to Ireland, but was not very welcomed. According to tradition, he had to journey further north. He is said to have arrived in Ireland on March 25, 433. He is considered to have been in his mid-forties at this time.
Upon his return, the Druids were determined to kill him. He escaped, some say by a miracle, and continued to travel sharing the gospel.
The first sanctuary he dedicated was at Saul. Patrick wrote that he “baptized thousands of people.”
According to Patrick’s writings we know that he refused to accept gifts, was occasionally beaten, held captive for 60 days and even put into chains.
Patrick is credited with using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.
He is also said to have banished the snakes from Ireland. No fossil’s have been found of snakes and it is believed that this may be in referrence to paganism.
These legends remain associated with Patrick, although there is no proof to either.
The cross pattee and the Saltire, also known as St. Andrew’s cross, are both associated with Saint Patrick.
Patrick preached the gospel for forty years and is said to perform miracles.
Patrick is described as “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.”
Patrick wrote that he “Evangelized heathen Ireland”.
Patrick is said to have died on March 17th, 461 hence the reason we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on this date. This tradition began as his Feast Day, but later moved away from the church.
He is believed to be buried in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, Ireland. He often wrote of his love for God.
Two Latin works survive, which are believed to have been written by St. Patrick, The Declaration, and Letters to the Soldiers of Coroticus. These sources are where the details of his life are taken.
Saint Patrick was changed from atheists to a believer when taken prisoner. He spent the remainder of his life studying, writing and sharing the gospel
to others. Most notably he chose to return to the place where he had been a servant and share the gospel with all of those in that heathen nation. For this reason, he is considered a faithful hero.
Patrick writes in his Confessions, “I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers.” He never considered himself a Saint, but he has become known as the Apostle of Ireland.