Patrick of Ireland — March 17


Bible connection

Read Acts 2:14-24 

What you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.

All about Patrick of Ireland (c.395-c.492)

Because Patrick lived so long ago some of his life remains a mystery to us. For instance, his death is believed to have been on this day in about 492, but the date is controversial. We do know that he was born into a wealthy family in Britain, to a father who was a Christian deacon. We do not have evidence about Patrick being particularly faithful himself as a child.

When he was sixteen, Patrick was captured by a group of Irish raiders and taken back to Ireland as a slave where he remained for the next six years. He worked as a shepherd, living an isolated life, and turned to his family’s faith during this period, becoming very devout. After six years in slavery, he escaped. According to his writings, he ran away after God spoke to him through a dream. Once he was home, he had another dream and an angel told him to go back to Ireland and tell his captors the good news of Jesus.

The Muiredach Cross at Monasterboice in Co. Louth

At this point Patrick began religious studies that lasted fifteen years. Once he was ordained as a priest, he returned to Ireland. Since he was familiar with the language and the culture, Patrick built traditions from Ireland into his lessons about Jesus. He chose not to attack Irish beliefs, but to incorporate certain practices and demonstrate how they were fulfilled in Christ. That’s why he superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol of worship, on the cross and created the Celtic cross. He famously used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the concept of the trinity. Patrick had spectacular success in converting the Irish and a body of stories developed around him and his successful evangelism tactics for centuries following his life.

We have sometimes incorporated lighting a “fire of resistance” into our celebration of Patrick because of this story. It is told that Patrick came to the Hill of Slane in County Meath in an early attempt to convert pagan Ireland to Christianity. On the eve of the Christian feast of Easter in 433, which coincided with the Druid feast of Bealtine (Beal’s fire) and the Spring Equinox, Patrick defiantly lit a bonfire on the Hill of Slane. By doing so, he violated a decree (and an ancient tradition) that no fire should be lit in the vicinity when the great festival fire of Bealtine blazed at the royal seat of power on the nearby Hill of Tara, easily visible from Slane.

The lighting of a fire may seem trivial, but at the time it was equivalent to declaring war on the Druid religious leaders and challenging the power of the High King of Ireland. That small act of starting a fire was a turning point in Patrick’s life and in the history of Ireland.

We remember the courage and love Patrick showed when he returned to those who had stolen his youth, and became their servant, bringing the revelation of Jesus to the Irish people. His life is a testament to listening to God, following dreams, and courageously giving witness to what one receives from the Holy Spirit.


Read Patrick’s Confession online!

There are interesting translations of Patrick’s famous prayer: Breastplate.

Nice biography and Patrick: Bio

Patrick’s miracles offered by a chatty writer for the Jesuits.

What do we do with this?

Light a fire! Where is your faith being run over or where is it nonexistent? That is a good place to light a fire in some way. You may not be called to be a dramatic as Patrick (but maybe you are!). But what can you do to give people a chance to know Jesus and escape what enslaves them?

Celtic Christianity [a guide from the Northumbria Community] is good at taking individuals seriously while still appreciating how we are all tied into the gift of life from God. Try the “Breastplate” prayer above and see if it helps calm your anxiety and increase your sense of being solid in your own place in Creation and in Eternity.  If its old language does not feel right in your mouth, rewrite it in a way that does. What might you say as your waking prayer each day? When you  are walking into a anxiety-provoking situation, what would you like to remember?

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