Bishop, Patron Saint of Ireland


St Patrick
St Patrick,
Patron Saint of Ireland

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Patrick grew up in a Romanised village on the west coast of Britain somewhere between the Severn and the Clyde. When nearly 16, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and spent 6 years in slavery. Patrick had been introduced to Christianity, and called himself Christian but it was during this crisis in his life, he really turned to God in prayer and found the reality of Jesus. Eventually he escaped from slavery and begged passage on a boat sailing to the continent.

Many adventures and difficult times followed before he managed to return to his family. This was a period of marked spiritual growth for him, with a profound deepening of his inner life. After training in the church, Patrick felt called to return to the people, who had held him in slavery, with the message of salvation. About 432 he returned to Ireland as bishop, setting up his base at Armagh. From this centre he walked over much of northern and central Ireland, evangelising the people and making many converts. His ministry was marked by simplicity and deep pastoral care. He proclaimed the unearned and boundless love of God. He encountered strong opposition, and his life was often in danger, but he was always ready to face persecution. In his preaching he made no distinction between classes and he was deeply concerned about abolishing paganism, although he tried to be sensitive to the culture of the people. He did not throw down their standing stones, but simply carved crosses on them. From this we can trace the development of the magnificent Celtic “high cross-es”.

Patrick tried unsuccessfully to introduce the system of parishes he had seen in Gaul. He had been strongly influenced during his training by St Martin of Tours, and like Martin he also founded monasteries, these became the chief feature of the Irish church. These sprang up everywhere, some so large as to include several thousand monks. For his clergy he used volunteers from Britain and Gaul and his own converts.

His writings, and in particular his own account of his spiritual development, his 'Confessions', show him as a very humane person, deeply attached to his Lord, with a simple, uncomplicated faith. The hymn known as “St Patrick’s Breastplate” is attributed to him. The dates of his birth and death are somewhat uncertain and debated but the Irish Annuls for the 5th Century record the death of "Patrick, the arch-apostle (or archbishop and apostle) of the Scoti", on 17 March in 492/3 they at the age of 120.years. He is so beloved as the 'Apostle of Ireland' that his day has become not just his memorial but a cultural celebration of Ireland itself.

BORN: c.390, Roman Britian

DIED:17 March c.461, Ireland.