Biography of Saint Patrick

Tuam Cathedral of the Assumption: St Patrick's WindowPhoto by afborchert

Saint Patrick is the Patron saint of Ireland and was born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387. Along with Saint Nicholas and Saint Valentine, the secular world shares a love for these saints along with devout Catholics; on Saint Patrick’s day, which falls on March 17, of every year, everyone celebrates, and everyone is Irish.

There are a variety of legends and stories surrounding Saint Patrick, but his story according to Catholic doctrine is as follows: Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, to parents Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies. As a child, at about age fourteen, Patrick was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. At this time, Ireland was a land of Druids and pagans, and Patrick learned the language and practices of the people who held him captive.

While in captivity, Patrick turned to God in prayer, and wrote the following:

“The Love of God and fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rose, 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 was held captive until he was twenty years old. He finally escaped after having a dream in which God told him to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to England, where he was reunited with his family. After being returned to England, Patrick had yet another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him, “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us [again].”

He began his priesthood studies and was later ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years. He went on to be ordained as a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. On March 25, 433, Patrick arrived in Ireland, at Slane. One legend states that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill him. However, Patrick managed to convert the chieftain, who was miraculously unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.

Patrick and his disciples preached the Gospel throughout Ireland and converted thousands. They began building churches all over the country and Kings, their families and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity after hearing Patrick’s message. Patrick continued this work all over Ireland for 40 years, working with miracles and writing of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, travelling and enduring much suffering, he died on March 17, 461 at Saul, where he had built the first church. Notably, Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity; it has been associated with him and the Irish since that time.