The Standard March 17, 2022
St. Patrick was born in Britain, possibly in what is now Dumbarton, Scotland. At the age of 16 he was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate. These pirates transported him to Ireland as a slave. Patrick spent six years in captivity, working as a shepherd. With long, lonely hours away from people, he turned to the faith of his grandfather for solace and became a devout Christian. As he tended the sheep, Patrick looked to God in prayer.
In Confessio: The Confession of St. Patrick he wrote that before this time he “knew not the true God.””And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.”
Eventually, Patrick heard God speak to him in a dream, telling him to escape and leave Ireland, which he did. Back in Britain, he engaged in religious studies for approximately 15 years and was ordained as a priest. He perceived an angel in a dream telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary. His goal was to minister to Christians and to help convert those who did not believe in Jesus. Some had learned about the gospel from Palladius, who was sent to Ireland in 431 A.D. as the first evangelist.
Patrick used traditional Irish rituals and incorporated them into lessons of Christianity. Most of the Irish people at that time practiced a nature-based pagan religion or a Celtic polytheism. It has been said that Patrick used bonfires to celebrate Easter, since the community typically honored their gods with fire and that he superimposed the sun, a meaningful Irish symbol, onto a cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross. Before his death on March 17 in 460 A.D. or so, Patrick made missionary journeys all over Ireland and served as a bishop. Numerous popular legends and exaggerated claims about him circulated widely. It goes without saying that Patrick took the Great Commission to heart. “And then he [Jesus] told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.’” (Mark 16:15)
Here is a beautiful prayer which is often attributed to St. Patrick.
“I arise today through the strength of heaven; Light of the sun, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of the wind, Depth of the sea, Stability of the earth, Firmness of the rock.
I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me; God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s hosts to save me afar and anear, alone or in a multitude. Christ shield me today against wounding. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. I arise today through the mighty strength of the Lord of creation.”