St. Patrick, slave of Ireland

Taken from

I received several emails chiding me for not posting a St. Patrick post yesterday. ♧ I will re-post, for time’s sake.

From slavery you escaped to freedom in Christ’s service: He sent you to deliver Ireland from the devil’s bondage. You planted the Word of the Gospel in pagan hearts. In your journeys and hardships you rivaled the Apostle Paul! Having received the reward for your labors in heaven, never cease to pray for the flock you have gathered on earth, Holy bishop Patrick!            — Orthodox antiphon for the Feast

St. Patrick’s call to evangelize the Irish is a wild and absolutely unique story. Born in Britain, he was captured as a young man by Celtic pirates, enslaved as a shepherd in Ireland and, after having risked his life to regain his freedom, said “yes” to a divine call to return to his captors in order to preach the Gospel to them.

Patrick had stunning evangelical success as Christianity swept across Ireland in a short time, and it is a near-miracle of history that the ex-slave Bishop, before he died, quelled most inter-tribal warfare and brought the notoriously brutal Celtic slave trade industry to an abrupt end. He also lauded the strength and courage of Irish women, especially those who were enslaved:

But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most—and who keep their spirits up despite the menacing and terrorizing they must endure. The Lord gives grace to his many handmaids; and though they are forbidden to do so, they follow him with backbone.

Among the many characteristics of Patrick that marked the Irish soul, his earthy, no-frills humility stands out. Just take a moment to read this brief selection from his autobiographical Confession:

I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.

Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me, truly wretched in this world, he inspired before others that I could be– if I would– such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.

Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.

And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake of my God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood for his name with proselytes and captives, even should I be left unburied, or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by dogs or savage beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the air, I think, most surely, were this to have happened to me, I had saved both my soul and my body. For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for him and in him.

St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, pray for us.

Join me in prayerfully listening to the prayerful Lorica (Breastplate) of St. Patrick:

This entry was posted in Saints.

7 comments on “St. Patrick, slave of Ireland

  1. honoria says:

    st patrick was born in france not in england, please get your facts correct.

  2. Dear Tom – thank you so much for that great quote from the Confessio…I am always struck by the great humility of good Patrick. There are several giants of our faith that I would have loved to have known as a personal friend: Moses from the Old testament being one, and Patrick thanks to my mother’s ancestry. Ireland in in desperate shape these days, corrupted by secularism and dismay. I would love it if missionaries came to that great country and re-evangelized it from South to North. It has too great a Catholic heritage to wind up moribund in the future. That would be worth praying for, wouldn’t it? God bless you Tom down in sunny New Orleans!! Woke up to three inches of Spring snow this morning and our school kids got a day off from studies. Saint Catherine came through again!! Fr. Mark

    PS – @Honoria – you might have mistaken France as Patrick’s birthplace. He did his studies for the priesthood in France. Modern day Scotland has the honor of being the birthplace of Patrick:)

    • O Historian, and evangelizer-priest, I think what Ireland needs is an Irish-Italian saint that operates like an agent, wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove, that is gregarious and joyful and wise and a friend of man. Know anyone like that? I do…….. God bless you, my Man and let’s talk soon!!! 🙂

  3. Michael says:

    Love this! Thanks so much. He is my favorite Saint.

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