Feast Day: March 17
Legends about St. Patrick abound, but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: He was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ.
Patrick was born in Britain, possibly in Wales, the son of Calpurnius, a municipal official. At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he was assigned to the care of a flock as a shepherd. His captivity had meant spiritual conversion. He learned the Celtic language and was converted to the Catholic faith. Later he escaped captivity and fled to France, where he became a disciple of St. Germain of Auxerre and visited the monastery on the isle of Lerins, near Cannes (412-415).
Returning to Auzerre, where he spent the next 15 years, Patrick studied the Latin Bible in preparation for joining the priesthood, but was criticized for his lack of scholarly education. Nevertheless, he was ordained a priest and, inspired by a dream, returned to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick arrived in Ireland in 432.
Because of Ireland’s pagan background, Patrick was emphatic in encouraging widows to remain chaste and young women to consecrate their virginity to Christ. He ordained many priests, divided the country into dioceses, held Church councils, founded several monasteries, and continually urged his people to greater holiness in Christ.
Patrick converted some of the indigenous chieftains and was very successful in adapting the gospel to the Irish culture. In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe. Ireland is the only country in Western Europe in which the Church was established without martyrdom.
What distinguishes Patrick is the durability of his efforts. When one considers the state of Ireland when he began his mission work, the vast extent of his labors (all of Ireland), and how the seeds he planted continued to grow and flourish, one can only admire the kind of man Patrick must have been. The holiness of a person is known only by the fruits of his or her work.
“Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.” —from “The Breastplate of St. Patrick”
Opening prayer for Mass: God our Father, you sent St. Patrick to preach your glory to the people of Ireland. By the help of his prayers, may all Christians proclaim your love to all men.
Creighton-Jobe, Rev. Ronald, et al. “The Complete Illustrated History of Catholicism and the Catholic Saints.” Wigston, Leicestershire: Anness Publishing, 2011.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.
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