Thursday, March 17, 2011
St. Patrick of Ireland
He prayed during his solitude on the mountain, and lived this way for six years. He had two visions. The first told him he would return to his home. The second told him his ship was ready. Setting off on foot, Patrick walked two hundred miles to the coast. There he succeeded in boarding a ship, and returned to his parents in Britain.
Some time later, he went to Gaul and studied for the priesthood at Auxerre under St. Germanus. Eventually, he was consecrated as a bishop, and was entrusted with the mission to Ireland, succeeding St. Palladius. Patrick had a dream in which an angel came to him bearing many letters. Selecting one inscribed “The Voice of the Irish,” he heard the Irish entreating him to come back to them.
Although St. Patrick achieved remarkable results in spreading the Gospel, he was not the first or only missionary in Ireland. There were also other missionaries who were active on the southeast coast, but it was St. Patrick who had the greatest influence and success in preaching the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, he is known as “The Enlightener of Ireland.”
St. Patrick founded many churches and monasteries across Ireland, but the conversion of the Irish people was no easy task. There was much hostility, and he was assaulted several times. He faced danger, and insults, and he was reproached for being a foreigner and a former slave. There was also a very real possibility that the pagans would try to kill him. Despite many obstacles, he remained faithful to his calling, and he baptized many people into Christ.
By the time he established his Episcopal See in Armargh in 444, St. Patrick had other bishops to assist him, many native priests and deacons, and he encouraged the growth of monasticism.
St. Patrick is often depicted holding a shamrock, or with snakes fleeing from him. He used the shamrock to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Its three leaves growing out of a single stem helped him to explain the concept of one God in three Persons.