The Apostle of Ireland
386 - 493
Memorial: March 17
Also known as: Apostle of Ireland, Maewyn Succat, Patricius, Patrizio
Saint Patrick's name at birth was Maewyn Succat. He was born about the end of the 4th century, in AD 386. He was not Irish to begin with. He was born in Scotland at a time when Ireland was a land of pagan kings and warriors. His parents were Romans, probably there as merchants or administrators of a Roman Colony.
At the age of sixteen Maewyn Succat was kidnapped from his native land of Britain, by a band pirates, and sold into slavery in Ireland. He worked as a shepherd and turned to religion for solace. After six long years of slavery he escaped to the northern coast of Gaul (now France), where he later became a monk. Maewyn Succat took on the name Patrick or Patricus, after he became a priest, much later in his life.
Around 432 he returned to Ireland as a missionary and succeeded in converting many of the island's tribes to Christianity. While not the first to bring christianity to Ireland, it is Patrick who is said to have encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites. It's said that Patrick had an unusually winning personality, and that helped him win converts. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the concept of the Trinity (father, son, holy spirit).
Patrick wrote a number of works, of which we know but two, the Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish christians, and the Confessio. This autobiographical confession was written by Patrick himself, in Latin, around the year 450. Although not very informative about Patrick's activities in Ireland, it offers a unique glimpse of life during those times.
The year of Patrick's death is disputed and the year of his birth is uncertain, but he is believed to have died on March 17th, 493, according to the latest reconstruction of the old Irish annals. A popular folk tale says that St. Patrick chased all snakes from Ireland, but there is no historical basis for this story. His creed was "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me!"
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated each year on March 17th worldwide by Irish people and increasingly by many of non-Irish descent. Celebrations are generally themed around all things green and Irish; both Christians and non-Christians celebrate the secular version of the holiday by wearing green, eating Irish food and imbibing Irish drink, and attending parade. Saint Patrick is the one who brought Christianity to the Irish.
Patron Saint of: Ireland and Irish
Symbol: cross, harp, serpent, baptismal font, demons, shamrock
Prayer to Saint Patrick
O Blessed Apostle of Ireland, glorious Saint Patrick, many centuries ago you converted Ireland to Christ.
Receive my grateful and heartfelt prayers today and intercede for me and for those I love.
I unite my prayers to those of all your spiritual children, turning confidently to God through the ages.
May I begin anew at this moment to love God with all my heart and serve him with all my strength.
Gain for me that missionary spirit which inspired you to work for the gospel.
Open my heart to charity for all the poor
that they may find joy and relief and give glory to God with all the saints.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ at my right,
Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot,
Christ in the ship,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.