|Saint Patrick lived from about 389 to 461 A.D. and
is the patron saint of Ireland.
Saint Patrick was chiefly responsible for converting the Irish people to Christianity.
He became known as the Apostle to the Irish. His name in Latin is Patricius.
Saint Patrick was born in Britain. His father was a wealthy alderman and a
Christian. When Saint Patrick was 16 years old, pirates captured him during
a raid and sold him as a slave in Ireland. He served as a shepherd of an Irish
chieftain in Ulster. During his captivity, Patrick dedicated himself to religion.
He escaped after six years of slavery and returned to his home in Britain.
As a result of his experiences in Ireland, Saint Patrick became driven by the
idea of converting the Irish to Christianity. To prepare himself for that task,
he studied in the monastery of Lerins, on an island off the southeast coast of
France. Saint Patrick also went to Auxerre, France, and studied religion under
Saint Germanus, a French bishop. Partly because Saint Patrick's earlier education
was inadequate, his religious superiors were reluctant to let him return to Ireland
as a missionary. But Palladius, the first Irish missionary bishop, died in 431.
Pope Celestine I then sent Saint Patrick to Ireland.
Saint Patrick began his work in northern and western Ireland, where no one
had ever preached Christianity. He gained the trust and friendship of several
tribal leaders and soon made many converts. Patrick is said to have founded
more than 300 churches and baptized more than 120,000 people.
Saint Patrick brought clergymen from England and France for his new churches.
He succeeded in his mission in Ireland, even though many British clergymen
opposed him and the way he organized his churches. Saint Patrick preached in
Ireland for the rest of his life.
Many stories about Saint Patrick are based on legend. One of the best known
tales tells how he charmed the snakes of Ireland into the sea so they were drowned.
According to another legend, Patrick used a three-leafed shamrock to illustrate
the idea of the Trinity. Many people believe the shamrock came to be the
traditional symbol of Ireland as a result of this legend. Today, Irish Catholics
throughout the world celebrate Saint Patrick's Day on his feast day, March 17th.