St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints. Along with St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, the secular world shares our love of these saints. This is also a day when everyone's Irish. There are many legends and stories of St. Patrick, but the major points of his life begin with his birth around 385-387 AD in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies.
As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.
During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote
"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, 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's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."
He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, 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 March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.
Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message. Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well).
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 17th in 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church. Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God is a shining example to all. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.
Why is Saint Patrick linked to the shamrock?
The shamrock is a a small clover-like plant with three leaves on one stem. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, the Three Persons in One God. The shamrock has been associated with Saint Patrick and with the Irish since that time.