St. Patrick of Ireland

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Patrick of Ireland (396-460), commonlyknown as Saint Patrick, was a fifth-century Romano-British missionary and bishop in Ireland, where he was known as the “Apostle of Ireland.”  Early medieval tradition credits him with being the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, and regards him as the founder of Christianity in Ireland, converting a society practising a form of Celtic polytheism. According to the autobiographical Confessio of Patrick, when he was about sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals; he lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland where he served as a bishop.

Legend credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. Icons of St Patrick often depict the saint with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other. The absence of snakes in Ireland has been noted from as early as the third century by Gaius Julius Solinus, but later legend has attributed the banishment of all snakes from the island to Patrick, who chased them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill.  It was formerly a common custom to wear a cross made of paper or ribbon on St Patrick’s Day.  Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17th, the date believed to be the day of his death.  It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday.

Writings:

  • Confessio
  • Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus
  • the Book of Armagh

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Quotes and Excerpts:

“Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!” –Confession | St. Patrick’s Confessio

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