March 17, 2016

March 17th: Optional Memorial of Saint Patrick

St. Patrick
Saint Patrick was a Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of Ireland, along with saints Brigit of Kildare and Columba. Little definite is known about his life, but according to tradition, Patrick was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century. Later, he served as the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.

St. Patrick is credited with saying "No one should ever say that it was my ignorance if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God's good pleasure; but let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought that – as is the perfect truth – it was the gift of God."

Legends about Patrick are numerous, however, one thing is certain; he exuded humility and courage in abundance. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of this saint in winning most of Ireland for Christ. So complete was Patrick's trust in God, and of the importance of his mission, that he feared nothing, not even death. (Video below.)

The Life of St. Patrick

Not many facts are known about the life of St. Patrick. We know that he was born around 415 AD, and was a Roman Briton. When he was about 16, while he was tending his sheep some Irish raiders captured him and made him a slave. He eventually was able to escape and return to Britain. There he heard the call to return and bring Christianity to Ireland. He was ordained a priest, consecrated a bishop and came back to Ireland around 435 AD. Many legends are associated around St. Patrick: how he drove the snakes out of Ireland, and the use of the shamrock to teach the mystery of the Trinity. Whether or not the legends are true, St. Patrick succeeded in bringing Catholicism to Ireland, and in time, the whole country converted from paganism to the one true God.

Although a small country, Ireland has played a large role in saving and bringing Christianity throughout the world. During the early Dark Ages, the Irish monasteries preserved Western writings while Europe remained in darkness. But as the Catholic country remained solidly Catholic, the Irish spread the faith to all corners of the world. To learn more about this subject, read Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization.

We have works attributed to St. Patrick, one being his autobiography called Confessions. It is a short summary of the events in his life, written in true humility. Below is a short excerpt:
I am greatly God's debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: "To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited naught hut lies, worthless things in which there is no profit." And again: "I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth."
Patron: Ireland; against snakes; against ophidiophobia; archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts; diocese of Burlington, Vermont; engineers; excluded people; fear of snakes; diocese of Fort Worth, Texas; diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; archdiocese of New York; Nigeria; diocese of Norwich, Connecticut; ophidiophobics; diocese of Portland, Maine; diocese of Sacramento, California; snake bites.

Symbols: A bishop trampling on snakes; bishop driving snakes away; shamrock; snakes; cross; harp; demons; baptismal font.

The two surviving Latin works thought to have been written by St. Patrick are the Declaration (Latin: Confessio) and the "Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus" (Latin: Epistola).

Sources: Catholic Culture.org and the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Collect Prayer

O God, who chose the Bishop Saint Patrick to preach your glory to the peoples of Ireland, grant, through his merits and intercession, that those who glory in the name of Christian may never cease to proclaim your wondrous deeds to all. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Patrick's Breastplate (a.k.a., the Lorica of St. Patrick) is a prayer attributed to St. Patrick. Read all about it here.


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