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Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland

There are many stories and legends about St Patrick. It is not entirely known where he was born, some suggest somewhere along the west coast of Britain but the most popular belief is that he was born in Scotland, probably in Kilpatrick, in and around 385 AD. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies.

When he was about 16-years-old, he was captured as a slave and carried off to Ireland. At this time Ireland was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him and he worked as a herdsman tending to sheep and remained a captive for six years.

Even though he came from a Christian family he was not particularly religious before his capture but his enslavement noticeably strengthened his faith. He relates this in his “Confessio” that during his captivity while tending the flocks he prayed many times during the day: “the love of God”, he added.

Patrick’s captivity continued until he was 20-years-oldor so. After having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. He escaped. He found some sailors by the coast who took him back to be reunited with his family.

On his return he began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre in France, whom he had studied under for years. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland on March 25, 433 AD, at Slane, County Meath.

Upon his arrival in Ireland, Patrick was initially met with hostile resistance. The Druids were at once in arms against him. But Patrick was not disheartened, in ways his six years captivity became a remote preparation for his future apostolate as he had gained a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue, and was familiar with all the details of Druidism from whose slavery he was destined to liberate the Irish race.

But Patrick quickly managed to spread Christian teachings far and wide. Through preaching, writing and performing countless baptisms, he convinced pagan Druids that they were worshiping idols under a belief system that kept them enslaved.

By the end of his life Patrick had preached and converted all of Ireland. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. During this time he is reported to have consecrated some 350 bishops, and was instrumental in bringing the faith to many thousands.

Folklore credits him with banishing snakes from Ireland, though others suggest that for climatic reasons Ireland never actually had snakes; one suggestion is that “snakes” referred to the serpent symbolism of the pagan priests of that time and place, the Druids.

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 dogma of “three divine persons in the one god”.

It is likely that Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD, which is his feast day, and he is said to be buried in Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. St Patrick was truly one of the most successful missionaries of his time and still serves as an example to modern missionaries. A sad fact is at the time of his death there was no formal canonization process in the Church and St Patrick has never been canonized by the Catholic Church and is a saint in name only.

You are welcome to join us for the Irish Pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Paris for Mass at 12h00, March 16 and for St Patrick’s Day Mass in the Chapelle Saint-Patrick at 11h30, March 17.