St. Patrick the Wonderworker, Apostle & Enlightener of Ireland (+March 17, 460)
Commemorated March 17
St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. The date of his birth cannot be fixed. Calpurnius, his father, was a decurion and deacon, his grandfather Potitus a priest, from Banna Venta Berniae (now England). Patrick, however, was not an active believer. At the age of sixteen, he was captured by a group of Irish pirates who took him to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. The time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. St. Patrick writes that the Lord had mercy on him and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven of his sins and converted to Christianity. While in captivity, he worked as a shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God through prayer, eventually leading him to convert to Christianity.
After six years of captivity, St. Patrick heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home and that his ship was ready. Running from his master, he travelled to a port, two hundred miles away where he found a ship and persuaded the captain to take him. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties. After returning home to Britain, Patrick continued to study Christianity.
Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home: “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish’. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us."
He studied in Europe at Auxerre, but is thought to have visited the Marmoutier Abbey, Toursand to have received the tonsureat Lérins Abbey. St. Germanus of Auxerre, a bishop of the Western Church, ordained him to the priesthood.
Acting on his vision, St. Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. He baptised thousands of people and ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too.
Legend credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinityby showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God.The shamrockhas since become a central symbol for St. Patrick's Day.