Patrick of Ireland: Builder of a Nation

Saint Patrick

Feast Day: 17 March

Saint Patrick is well known as the patron saint of Ireland and credited with being the apostle to the Irish. Much we know of him either comes from chronicles of monks who recorded the history of the Church or from the ‘Confession of St. Patrick’, written by the man himself.

Originally, St Patrick came to Ireland as a slave when raiders came and abducted him from Britain. During his time there, St. Patrick learned the language, culture and beliefs of the people he would later evangelise. While there he took comfort in his faith, the only thing that he kept from his old life in Britain. When he eventually came back to Britain he became part of the clergy and grew in his understanding of the faith.

The face of Ireland

After several years, however, he received a vision from God calling him to go back to Ireland as a missionary. By addressing their needs and incorporating their culture, St. Patrick transformed the previously pagan Ireland into a staunchly Catholic nation. Instead of forcing a foreign culture upon them he took everyday signs and practices of the region and used them to point to God with the result the faith was deeply personal, relatable and liveable for everyone with whom he worked.

That said, life was constantly difficult for Patrick as legally he was without protection; he says that he was, on one occasion, beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains, perhaps awaiting execution. The land was in a semi-constant state of war and raiding parties struck out of the darkness, killing indiscriminately. The local druids constantly plotted against him and, as Ireland was not a united kingdom, even if he was successful in one area of Ireland he could well be in jeopardy the next town he arrived in.

Even with all this difficulty he persevered and succeeded, with Christ at his centre. By the time of his death the country was forever changed and St. Patrick has gone down in history as the apostle to the Irish.

Why Patrick is important

A reflection from someone in our young Catholic community

St. Patrick inspires me for two main reasons. The first is that he is an inspirational missionary. He had almost no protection from the local nobles and kings but was willing to risk it all to spread the Good News. Patrick prayed constantly and kept God constantly in his heart. He took time to learn the customs, language and practices. He used symbols and practices that the local population could understand and relate to. The result was that thousands entered a personal relationship with Christ and deeply grew in faith. As a missionary myself, I find there is so much I can learn from St. Patrick’s example and dedication; and, through his prayer and intercession, I pray I can in some small way emulate his example.

The second way St. Patrick is important to me is that the symbols and practices which he used to help people back then help me grow in faith today. Having grown up in the countryside, many of the nature images he uses are relatable and, as I grew up, they really helped me to grasp many truths and beauties about God.

Prayer

Dear St. Patrick, in your humility you called yourself a sinner, but you became a most successful missionary and prompted countless pagans to follow the Saviour. Many of their descendents in turn spread the Good News in numerous foreign lands. Through your powerful intercession with God, obtain the missionaries we need to continue the work you began. Amen.