J.M.J. Strength, vigor, faith, tenacity . . . these are only a few of the choice words that often are applied to Saint Patrick, Bishop (c. 385-461), whose Memorial is March 17.
Little is known with certainty about his early life. Patrick was born in Wales; his given name was "Maewyn." He regarded himself as a pagan until he was 16.
A group of Irish bandits raided his village and kidnapped Patrick. The young man was sold into slavery. But his horrendous captivity became a genuine blessing for him because during that difficult period he drew closer to Almighty God.
After six years, Patrick escaped from his slavery and made his way to Gaul, where he studied in the monastery for twelve years under the tutelage of Saint Germain, the Bishop of Auxerre. His training helped him to see that his divine calling was to convert pagans to the true faith: Christianity. And he wanted to return to Ireland to do precisely that.
But his Superiors had other plans. They sent Saint Palladius to the Emerald Isle to do missionary work. Two years later, Palladius was transferred to Scotland. Now, another missionary was urgently needed. So, Patrick was appointed the second Bishop of Ireland.
Immersed in the Lord's abundant grace, Patrick achieved much success in converting the pagans of Ireland. For that reason, the Celtic Druids did all they could to thwart his humble efforts. They arrested him on several occasions, but he sprung out of detention each time. Patrick was tireless in traveling across Ireland and establishing monasteries, schools and churches--all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, including his own.
Patrick's incredible labors in his beloved Ireland lasted three decades. He eventually withdrew to County Down, where he died on March 17, 461.
Several legends exist regarding Saint Patrick. One is that he raised some people from the dead. Another is that when he gave a sermon from the top of a mound, all the snakes in Ireland fled. (Some insist that since there were no snakes native to Ireland, this "driving away the snakes" may have been a reference to the "driving away of Satan" from the hearts of the heathens.)
One belief associated with Saint Patrick is that he used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity: One God in Three Divine Person--the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In one shamrock, you have the unity of the Godhead, but given the three leafs, you also have the distinctness of each Divine Person. Patrick never wearied of presenting the Faith.
The Church is all the better for the heroic witness of Saint Patrick. His love for Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist and his devotion towards the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Queen of Ireland, still looms large centuries after his passing from this earth. May we imitate his service to Christ, His Mother Mary and the Church.
Saint Patrick, pray for us!