Apostle of Ireland
Patrick was a Christian missionary and is the patron saint of Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. When he was 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years as a herdsman, before escaping and returning to his family. Patrick entered the church, as his father and grandfather had before him, becoming a deacon and a bishop.
He writes that his faith grew in captivity, and that he prayed daily. After six years he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready.
Patrick recounds that he had a vision a few years after returning home: I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading” “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea – and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though postglacial Ireland never actually had snakes. One suggestion is that snakes refers to beliefs such as Pelagianism, symbolized as serpents. Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a 3 leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief of “three divine persons in the one God” (as opposed to the Arian belief that was popular in Patrick’s time). Whether or not these legends are true, the very fact that there are so many legends about Patrick shows how important his ministry was to Ireland.
March 17, popularly known as St. Patrick’s Day, is believed to be his death date and is the date celebrated as his feast day.