Patrick of Ireland
My name is Patricius Magonus Sucatus. You can call me Patrick. These days I am chiefly celebrated with green beer every March 17th. But there’s a lot more to my story.
When I was born around 400 AD in the British Isles, life was much different than today. My family was of Roman stock and my father was a municipal official. He was a deacon and my grandfather was a priest. My mother was a close relative of Martin of Tours, a much loved saint of the church. So you can see that my family was Christian and fairly well off. I was looking forward to a comfortable life as befitted a man of property.
But all that changed when I was sixteen. One night I was kidnapped along with many others of my father’s household. I remember the fear in my heart when I was taken to a far off country called Ireland. But I am not ashamed because it was there that I became a servant of Jesus Christ.
I was now a slave and it was my job to tend the flocks. The weather was cold and damp and I had little shelter to protect me. But I would say as many as a hundred prayers every day and nearly as many at night. So I felt no hurt from the snow, ice or rain. My faith increased day by day.
After six years of fasting and prayer I heard a voice in my sleep saying to me, “It is well that you fast for soon you will go to your own country.” Again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me, “Your ship is ready.”
So I left that mountain and traveled 200 miles to find a ship carrying a cargo of dogs. I had no fear because God directed my steps. When I told the captain that I couldn’t pay for my passage, he wasn’t pleased. “It is of no use for you to ask to go along with us,” he said. So I left them to return to the hut where I was staying. I began to pray as I went and before I even finished my prayer, I heard one of them shouting behind me, “Come, hurry, we shall take you on faith.”
After three days we reached land. There we entered a deserted country where we traveled for twenty-eight days. Many times we were without food and water, but God provided for us.
Finally I was back at home with my own people. I decided to devote myself to leading a holy life. My family hoped that I would stay with them but God had other plans for me. While studying and serving in France, I became a priest and then was consecrated as a bishop.
One night I saw a vision of a man whose name was Victoricus. He was coming from Ireland carrying countless letters. He gave me one of them and I read it saying, “We, the voice of the Irish, ask you to come and walk among us once more.” I was quite brokenhearted and could read no further. Then I woke up.
On another night the voices said, “He that has laid down his life for you, it is he that speaks to you.” I saw a man in prayer. When he finished praying, he said that he was the Spirit. I woke up and remembered the Apostle saying, “The Spirit helps the infirmities of our prayer. For we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself prays for us with unspeakable groanings, which cannot be expressed with words.”
Adventures in Ireland
So I answered my calling and went to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel. At once I found myself attacked by the Druids and the local chieftains. One such man named Dichu came out to stop my journey. But when he drew his sword against me, his arm became as stiff as a statute. He couldn’t move his arm until he declared obedience to me. He asked for instruction in the faith and made a large donation that enabled me to build a monastery and a church.
The druids did everything they could to stop me. By my own count, my companions and I were seized and carried off no less than 12 times. Once I was even chained and death was all but certain.
But their incantations were no match for the Lord Jesus Christ. He was with me in all my travels. In one day alone, a king, his six sons, and 12,000 of his people were converted. I spent years traveling throughout Ireland visiting every district, organizing parishes, forming dioceses, and instructing the chieftains and the people.
But I didn’t spend all my time on the road. It was my habit to regularly withdraw from my missionary activities to devote myself completely to prayer. Penitential exercises were always part of my day. I wore only a rough hair-shirt and slept on a rock. I made the sign of the cross several times a day as part of my devotion to Christ.
I finally laid down my earthly life in 493 and joined my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Some say I converted over 120,000 people to faith in Christ. Some say that I consecrated over 300 churches in Ireland. Yet, during all of my labors, I never asked for money. Even in my travels to baptize and ordain the faithful, I didn’t even request the price of the shoes that got me there. By the grace of God, I did everything lovingly and gladly for the salvation of the Irish.
Today I find that I am reverenced beyond my comprehension. I certainly do not feel worthy that the Lord would grant me such an honor. To me I was merely expressing my devotion to Christ. A prayer that I wrote, the famous St. Patrick’s Breastplate, describes how I lived my life:
“I bind myself today to the strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, and the One in Three,
Who has created all of nature, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ my Lord.”