Who was Saint Patrick, really?

On St. Patrick’s day in America, we often view St. Patrick as a champion for Irish nationalism and cite such legends as him chasing all the snakes from Ireland. However, you might be surprised that he was not a canonized Catholic saint, there were never snakes in Ireland, and Patrick was not even Irish.
That might sound like a kill-joy, but in reality there is much to celebrate about his legacy, and we can learn a lot from him.
  • He loved his enemies
Patrick was born in England into a Christian family. His  father Calpornius was a deacon, and his grandfather Potitus was a priest. Patrick was captured as a slave from Britain when he was 16 and taken to Ireland to work as a shepherd for six years before he escaped and returned to his family. When he grew older and was ordained a bishop, he returned to Ireland as a missionary to the same people who had taken him captive as a teen.
  • His faith grew while in captivity
While he was in slavery, Patrick prayed, worshipped the Lord, and reported that his faith grew: much like Joseph, or Paul when he was in prison.
  • He obeyed his visions and acted on the Lord’s word with faith
While he was in captivity, he had a vision in which he was told to leave Ireland and informed that a ship had been prepared for his escape at a certain port. He escaped, and sure enough his ship was waiting to carry him back home, where he grew in faith – until he had another vision, in which an Irishman  brought him numerous letters that implored him to return to Ireland. One of the letters read, “We ask you, boy, come and walk among us once more.” Patrick submitted to God’s call to return to Ireland.
  • He was honest and had integrity, gave back gifts and refused to charge for the thousands of baptisms he performed
  • Patrick showed his belief in the equality of believers regardless of nationality, former faith, or gender. Just like Jesus, Patrick included women in his ministry, evangelizing to them, baptizing them, and respecting their service.
  • When Roman soldiers murdered and captured many of the women he had baptized, he challenged them, showing his willingness to put himself in harm’s way for his sisters in Christ.
  • He followed his passion for the Gospel and the Great Commission in the midst of rampant paganism.
  • “Hence I cannot be silent — nor, indeed, is it expedient — about the great benefits and the great grace which the lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this we can give to God in return after having been chastened by Him, to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under the heaven.”
  • “And there I wish to wait for His promise who surely never deceives, as He promises in the Gospel: They shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob — as we believe the faithful will come from all the world. For that reason, therefore, we ought to fish well and diligently, as the Lord exhorts in advance and teaches, saying: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. And again He says through the prophets: Behold,I send many fishers and hunters, saith God, and so on. Hence it was most necessary to spread our nets so that a great multitude and throng might becaught for God, and that there be clerics everywhere to baptize and exhort a people in need and want, as the Lord in the Gospel states, exhorts and teaches, saying: Going therefore now, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world. And again He says: Go ye therefore into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned. And again: This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall come the end. And so too the Lord announces through the prophet, and says: And it shall come to pass, in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And in O see, He saith: `I will call that which was not my people, my people; … and her that had not obtained mercy, one that hath obtained mercy. And it shall be in the place where it was said: “You are not my people,” there they shall be called the sons of the living God.’ “
  • “But I see myself exalted even in the present world beyond measure by the Lord, and I was not worthy nor such that He should grant me this. I know perfectly well, though not by my own judgment, that poverty and misfortune becomes me better than riches and pleasures. For Christ the Lord, too, was poor for our sakes; and I, unhappy wretch that I am, have no wealth even if I wished for it. Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, or whatever it may be; but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty, who rules everywhere, as the prophet says: Cast thy thought upon God, and He shall sustain thee.”

2 thoughts on “Who was Saint Patrick, really?

  1. I never believed in the “Luck of the Irish” anyways. St. Patrick’s obedience to God in that he returned to a country after being enslave to it and carried out the Great Commision is a wonderful testimony. Thanks for reminding us the context of remembering this St. Patrick’s Day.

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