St. Patrick was, without question, one of the most intriguing saints in the entirety of Christendom. His greatness, however, had nothing to do with snakes.
Catholic Online reports that Patrick was born in Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland in the year 387, under the Roman name Patricius. He was born to Calpurnius and Conchessa, Roman citizens who were in charge of the British colonies.
His life remained somewhat uneventful until, at the age of fourteen, Patricius, his father, and many slaves were captured and taken to Ireland as slaves. At this time, Ireland was predominately pagan or Druid. While in captivity, Patricius learned the language and ways of his captors.
One day, during his captivity, he sends a prayer to God. Patricius wrote: “The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
Six years into his captivity, he received a dream message telling him to leave his captors and go to the coast to go home (some 200 miles away). He does so, and is indeed returned to his family.
Thinking his ordeal was done, Patricius receives another dream message, this time from the Irish people: “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.”
Patricius began his priesthood studies under St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre. Once he completed his studies, now known as Patrick, he was made a bishop and his dream message came true: he was sent to Ireland to spread the gospel. At this time, Ireland was practicing slavery, and human sacrifices were all too common. Yet, in the face of this diversity, Patrick entered Ireland in 433, and for the next 30 years, successfully converted Irish persons, royalty and peasant alike, to the word of God.
While in Ireland, Patrick recruited many disciples, had many churches built, and transformed Ireland to a Christian nation. Eventually, slavery and human sacrifices ceased. After faithfully serving his God and his fellow Christians, Patrick died in 461.
So, Patrick did what a Christian is supposed to do, preach the gospel and convert the non-believers. But, what made Patrick such a legend, in the same lines as St. Nicholas and St. Valentine?
The American Catholic provides an answer. While other disciples would try to convert those within the groups of the mostly converted, Patrick went back into a land where he was held as a slave, away from his family, and fearlessly began systematically converting the Irish people. Patrick did so with the power of his conviction, the sway of his voice, and the compassion for those who had incarcerated him as a slave.
It is this kind of strength, this power of conviction, that separates Saint Patrick from others. It is what makes him a most intriguing saint.
[Image courtesy of the St. Thomas Aquinas Church]