The “Apostle of Ireland”: A Little About St. Patrick

“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

Born: A.D. 387
Died: A.D. 461
Feast Day: March 17

Patron of: barbers, barrel makers, blacksmiths, cattle, engineers, people who are excluded, miners, and against fear of snakes.

About St. Patrick…

If you were to ask most people what they know about St. Patrick, you would most likely get a wide range of answers. And, inevitably, most would be incorrect. Much like St. Valentine, St. Patrick is more known for his now secularized holiday than for his actual feast day. Saint Patrick — who spent his life speaking out against slavery and sin and promoting virtue and prayerfulness — is now commemorated by large drunken parties and the abandonment of good judgment.

Just to set the record straight, Patrick was born in A.D. 387 in (Roman) Britain. That is right, Patrick was not even Irish; he was Welsh-Italian. When Patrick was 14 years old, he was captured by Irish pirates (yes, that was a real thing) and taken off to Ireland as a slave, where he lived in captivity until the age of 20 when a prophetic dream offered him a plan of escape. Immersed in the pagan, heretical culture of fourth century Ireland, Patrick turned his teen attention to God. He would have another vision later in life that would lead to his place in the seminary and eventual ordination to the priesthood.

Years later, around the age of 46, Patrick was led back to Ireland — to the very nation and people he sought to escape — as a missionary, armed with the Gospel. Legend says that Patrick was sent to evangelize a Druid chieftain who — after a miraculous intervention by God — allowed the priest he was trying to kill to live, paving the way for the chieftain’s eventual conversion. Over the next few decades, Patrick traveled throughout the Emerald Isle, converting hundreds and, eventually, thousands. He began building churches, training missionary disciples, and offering simplified teachings on some of the most complex theological mysteries, like the Holy Trinity (using a three-leaf shamrock as a visual aid).

In Patrick’s story, we see history and legend meet. Perhaps you have seen pictures or heard that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland? Most scholars agree that there were not any actual snakes in the country; it is a myth. He was not the first Christian missionary sent to Ireland, either (that was St. Palladius). That being said, Patrick was heroic on multiple levels that have nothing to do with how he is celebrated in America in the 21st century. He spoke out against slavery, pagan worship, and was a champion of women’s rights in a time when people treated them as objects (not unlike today). He stood for Jesus, speaking out against pagan influences and the debaucherous lifestyles (including drunkenness, idolatry, witchcraft, and sexual sins) that were leading countless masses into sin.

Patrick could have allowed slavery and paganism to turn his heart away from God but, instead, he used it as fuel to pray and pursue God even more strongly. He was a man of trust, humility, and passion. If you can relate to this example as a teen, thank God for the community and family He has given you. If you doubt you would have (had) the same passion and strength as St. Patrick during your teen years, invite him into your prayer life and ask for his intercession to deepen your faith and strengthen your resolve. Lastly, if you are enslaved by anything in your life, ask St. Patrick to kneel beside you and pray that those chains would be shattered and that the Lord would set you free. Saint Patrick understands teen enslavement better than almost any other saint, and his prayerful intercession is valuable in your fight for freedom and pursuit of victory!

Notable Moments/Achievements

  • Captured and enslaved by pirates as a teen
  • Returned to Ireland and devoted his life as a missionary of the Gospel
  • Outspoken against slavery, immorality, and pagan worship
  • Champion of women’s rights
  • His most well-known writings are “Confessions of St. Patrick” and “Letter to Coroticus”

Excerpt from “100 Saints Every Catholic Teen Should Know.” To check out more Saints and purchase a copy, head to our online store here.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash