Ireland’s Patron Saint

St. Patrick was the Christian apostle to the Irish and the patron saint of Ireland

He was born in about 390 near the River Severn in southwestern Britain. The son of Calpurnius, a Roman deacon, Patrick was kidnapped as a teenager by a band of raiders and was brought as a captive slave to Ireland. While a shepherd in the service of a pagan Irish chieftain, Patrick experienced hallucinations, voices, and visions. He turned his fervent devotion, and a please for deliverance from slavery, to the god of the Christians.

After about six years in captivity, Patrick managed to escape and walked the length of Ireland. Reaching the southern coast, he persuaded the crew of a trading vessel to carry him away. After a voyage of three days, the boat’s crew landed in Gaul. After two months of wandering through the wilderness, Patrick entered the monastery of Lerins but later returned to his home and family in Britain. Thankful for his deliverance, he decided on a life as a Christian missionary.

Patrick returned to Gaul and the town of Auxerre, where a bishop, Amator, ordained him as a deacon. In about 432, Patrick returned to Ireland and began the difficult task of converting the petty lords and clan leaders of pagan Ireland to Christianity. According to tradition, Patrick preached, wrote, matched the pagan priestly caste of Druids in their tests of skill, overthrew the pagan idols, and founded Christian churches in several locations where the faith had been completely unknown.

After a journey to Rome in 441-443, Patrick returned to Ireland in the possession of holy relics and established the first Irish monastery at Armagh, where he became bishop. Patrick, who introduced the Latin language to Ireland, left several writings, including the Confession, a devotional hymn known as the Lorica, and the Letter to Coroticus, in which he denounces a British lord for killing newly baptized Christians and for dealing in slaves. After retiring from Armagh, Patrick spent the remainder of his life in Gaul, where he died in about 461.