“Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” —St. Patrick
Patrick was born in Scotland sometime around 385 AD to Roman parents, Calpurnius and Conchessa. When he was about 14 he was kidnapped by a raiding party and taken to Ireland to work as a slave. There he tended sheep.
In the despair of his captivity he turned to God in intense and desperate prayer, drawing comfort from the Christian faith that he and so many others of his people had abandoned under Roman rule. …Patrick’s captivity became a preparation for his future in ministry. He learned the language and customs of the Irish people who held him, and even while he practiced devotion to Christ he also became very familiar with the pagan and druidic practices that were popular throughout Ireland at that time. After six years as a slave he was told by an angel in a dream to run away to the coast. He travelled over 200 miles from Ballymena to Wexford and escaped on a ship that was taking dogs to Gaul (France). After landing in England he was recaptured and returned to slavery, but this time he escaped again after only two months and traveled around Europe seeking his destiny. [All Saints Brookline.org]
Once home he had another dream that called him back to Ireland to teach the people about God. He studied to become a priest and eventually be came a Bishop. At 48 he was sent to Ireland.
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. [Catholic Online.org]
His ability to connect with the people on a personal level helped him win over hundreds of thousands of converts from peasants to tribal kings.
He is, perhaps, most famously known for using the common shamrock [NOT THE 4-LEAF CLOVER] to explain the Holy Trinity.
Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. [History.com]
Mythology has Patrick “bringing Christianity to Ireland,” but the Church was already there. He expanded it and made it more appealing to the Irish. He’s also suppose to have “driven the snakes out of Ireland.” Another myth. There weren’t any snakes in Ireland to drive out.
The Patrick of historical record is just as compelling as the Patrick of legend. … He was the first real organizer of the Catholic Church in Ireland by dividing the church into territorial sees; he raised the standard of biblical scholarship and especially encouraged the wider teaching of Latin; he travelled throughout the country preaching, teaching, building churches, and opening schools and monasteries; and he converted countless people of all social classes, and inspired many to become monks and nuns. He not only shared God with the people of Ireland, but also grew in his understanding of God through them. [All Saints Brookline.org]
In Ireland St. Patrick’s day is a holy day of obligation, but Catholics and non Catholics alike celebrate it world wide. So whether you are saying a rosary or lifting a glass in St. Patrick’s name today… I wish you Sláinte (good health)…. and …
May the strength of God pilot us,
may the wisdom of God instruct us,
may the hand of God protect us,
may the word of God direct us.
Be always ours this day and for evermore.