St Patrick’s Story
St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland has his feast day on 17 March. At around the age of 16 he was taken from his family home in Roman Britain by Irish raiders. He lived in Ireland as a slave for about six years, working as a herdsman. It was a tough life and the story goes that he dreamed that the ship in which he was to escape was ready. Running away he faced many hardships and more captivity before he was finally reunited with his family.
In around 432 he returned to Ireland. He wrote in his spiritual autobiography, Confessio, about a dream in which he received a letter which was titled “the Voice of the Irish”. In it he was asked to return to save the people of Ireland . “Deeply moved,” he says, “I could read no more.”
At first he believed himself too ill-educated and unworthy to begin his mission, but once he set out, he spent the next 30 years converting and baptising thousands of people, stablishing many monasteries, churches and schools .
It wasn’t an easy life. Despite Patrick’s diplomacy with leaders and law givers, he wasn’t always made welcome on his travels. The stories tell of a humble man who despite the ever present danger of incarceration or martyrdom, he did his best to treat the non-Christians he met with respect.
Patrick wasn’t always in favour with his superiors in Britain either, being accused of seeking office for his own ends. He responded by saying that he was an instrument of God and had been chosen to bring men and women who had worshipped “idols and unclean things” to become “the people of God”.
Patrick ended his life in Saul, the site of his first church, but the stories surrounding his life grew, so that by the end of the 7th century there were many legends about him, not least that he had driven the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea.
He himself wrote about raising people from the dead and of his prayers that food be provided for some travelling sailors, caused a herd of pigs to appear in a barren place for them to feast on.
One of the most popular stories about Patrick is that he used the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity, thereby starting the association of the Irish people with the plant.
There has always been a strong connection between the Welsh and the Irish and it is believed by many that St Patrick was born near St Davids and that he predicted the birth of the Welsh saint David many years before he was actually born.