Bishop and Missionary of Ireland
Feast Day, March 17
For all of the green and orange that will be worn, and for all the media coverage, very, very little will be presented about the faith and essential person of Sucat (Welsh for “War-like”), a Romano-Britisher, who became St. Patrick, the courageous missionary to the Irish.
Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland and after whom the Anglican Cathedral in Dublin is named, was born on the northwest coast of Britain in about 390. Patrick’s father, Calpornius, was a Deacon in the Church and an official in the late Roman imperial government of Britain. His paternal grandfather was a priest.
When he was sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by an invading force of pirating Irish slave-traders who had gone on an economic rampage to seek cheap labor and to effect an immediate redistribution of wealth. For six years, Patrick was a slave tending sheep in Ireland.
He tells us that at the time of his captivity, he “knew not the true God.” He had a rebellious heart toward the things of the Holy Spirit. But amid the hardships and solitude of his lot, his faith in our Lord came alive. The Holy teachings that he knew as a boy took flesh and spirit within him. He wrote, “The love of God and His reverence increased more and more, and my faith grew and my spirit was stirred up…”
Patrick experienced the love of God: in those painful, evil, sad, and lonely days of slavery, he found love and redemption. In the face of hell, he received grace to be tough and resilient in that love. After six years, he heard a voice in his sleep that aroused his hopes of seeing his family and which encouraged him to escape. His two-hundred mile circuitous and secretive march to the sea was successful, and he finally returned to his family.
In 432, after study and preparation, Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary.
About his ministry in Ireland, Patrick wrote, “Daily I expect either a violent death… or to be reduced to slavery… But, I have cast myself int the hand of the Almighty God… as the Prophet saith, ‘Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He Himself will sustain thee.'”
Patrick has never been canonized. He is accepted as a calendar saint in our “Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” because of his popular esteem by all Christians.
Regardless of partisan attempts to claim him, Patrick does not belong exclusively to any one part of the “One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church” of the Creeds.
Throughout 1600 years, the Christian community originally gathered by St. Patrick has persisted, and Irish Anglicans, who belong to one of the oldest national churches in the world, will be found worshiping in ancient buildings a thousand years old or in modern churches completed no more than a few years ago.
Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be the apostle to the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
– Lesser Feasts and Fasts