St. Patrick’s Day
Patrick was born in 385 in Roman Britannia in the modern-day town of Dumbarton, Scotland. Patrick opens his autobiographical St. Patrick’s Confession with these lines:
My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae. His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time.
When the pirates landed on the Irish coast, they took the captured Patrick inland where he was used as a shepherd and farm laborer. Six years passed and Patrick had either a vivid dream or a vision in which he was shown an escape route. Emboldened, Patrick made his break from his captors, traveling back to the shoreline. A British ship took him home but he didn’t stay long.
Before he became a prisoner, Patrick’s Christian faith meant little to him. That changed during his captivity. His faith served to sustain him through those long, dark days. Back in his homeland he committed to his faith in earnest, became a priest and soon felt a tremendous call to the people who had kidnapped him. He returned to Ireland with a mission.
Patrick’s goal was to see pagan Ireland converted. These efforts did not sit well with Loegaire, the pagan king of Ireland. Patrick faced danger and even threats on his life and took to carrying a dagger. Yet, he persisted. Eventually the king converted and was baptized by Patrick and much of Ireland followed suit.
Patrick crisscrossed Ireland founding churches and would come to be known as the “Apostle of Ireland.” Strangely, St. Patrick has never been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
Legend has it that Patrick died on March 17, 461. He probably died in Saul, where he founded his first church.
Adapted from Stephen Nichols
With my whole heart I seek you, O God. I treasure your word in my heart.
Read something about the nature of Celtic spirituality. Celtic Spirituality: Just What Does It mean? , Twelve Celtic Spiritual Practices That Celebrate God in Our World
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear, alone and in a multitude.
The Deer’s Cry
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger
From St. Patrick’s Breastplate
The list of Irish saints is past counting; but in it all no other figure is so human, friendly, and lovable as St. Patrick – who was an Irishman only by adoption.
A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen.
Love is never defeated, and I could add, the history of Ireland proves it.
Pope John Paul II
If you’re Irish, it doesn’t matter where you go – you’ll find family.
Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. One suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place, as shown for instance on coins minted in Gaul, or that it could have referred to beliefs such as Plagiarism, symbolized as “serpents.” Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief as opposed to the Arian belief that was popular in Patrick’s time.