Saint Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints. Along with Saint Nicholas and Saint Valentine, the secular world shares our love of these Saints. This is also a day when everyone is Irish.
Saint Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain, in charge of the colonies.
As a boy of 14 or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.
During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He 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."
Saint Patrick's captivity lasted until he was 20, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, where he reunited with his family.
He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him, "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."
He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by Saint Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years. Later, Saint Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Saint Patrick.
Saint Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Saint Patrick's message.
Saint Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well).
Saint Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering, he died March 17, 461.
Saint Patrick died at Saul, where he had built the first church.
While millions around the world will celebrate Saint Patrick's Day on March 17th, the sad fact is that Saint Patrick has never been canonized by the Catholic Church and is a saint in name only.
As writer Ken Concannon stated, "There was no formal canonization process in the Church during its first millennium. In the early years of the Church the title saint was bestowed first upon martyrs, and then upon individuals recognized by tradition as being exceptionally holy during their lifetimes.
“Consequently these Irish saints, including Saint Patrick, were never actually formally canonized. The exception was Fergal, also known as Saint Virgil of Salzburg, an eighth century missionary scholar who was officially canonized in 1233 by Pope Gregory IX. Virgil is one of only four Irish saints to be canonized by Rome.
Saint Patrick was actually the grandson of a priest back when marriage for clerics was not frowned on. His genius was bringing the old pagan traditions and the new religion together in harmony in Ireland in the 5th century.
Saint Patrick was the first major figure to reject slavery and for that alone he deserves proper canonization.
Why a shamrock?
Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and has been associated with him and the Irish since that time.
In His Footsteps
Saint Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.