The Legend of Saint Patrick
The story of Saint Patrick is veiled in mystery and legend, and only a few facts are known through his own writing. His Confession, a spiritual autobiography, and his Letter to Coroticus, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish people, are the only two works that provide insight into his life. These two works together form a slim volume of less than 120 pages.
We do know that Patrick was likely born in the late third century and died in the late fourth century. Some believe he lived to be about 120, the same age as Moses. Patrick’s most active years were in the fourth century.
Patrick was born in Britain during a time when Rome was withdrawing from the island. He was a Roman citizen and a Christian. At the time, Christianity was the state religion of Rome. Patrick’s father was wealthy, and his grandfather was a priest. Patrick paid little attention to his religion besides giving it the lip service that society demanded. However, his life changed when he was captured by Irish pirates during a raid and sold as a slave in Ireland. The time of his abduction is unclear, but some scholars estimate he was 14 or 16 years old when he was taken away from his family.
Patrick was put in charge of his master’s livestock and spent months alone tending to the animals as a simple shepherd. During this time, he found himself being drawn to God, and his faith grew stronger every day. After six years of captivity, Patrick heard a voice telling him he would soon go home, and a ship was ready. He traveled 200 miles to the Irish coast, finding a ship and convincing the captain to let him board. It took three days for the ship to reach the British coast, and after many adventures, Patrick returned home.
Upon his return, Patrick began to study Christianity in earnest and had a vision that inspired him to become a missionary in Ireland. He went to Europe to study and was ordained a priest by Saint Gremanus of Auxerre. Patrick returned to Ireland and led almost the entire country to Jesus, teaching the Christian faith, building churches, ordaining priests, and baptizing thousands of new believers.
Patrick’s popularity drew attention, and he was accused of misusing funds, but he refuted those allegations and proved that he not only did not misuse funds but also gave away what he had. Patrick died in the fourth century, and his death is celebrated on March 17 every year, although the year is unknown.
Many legends surround Patrick, such as driving all the snakes out of Ireland and using a clover to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. However, these stories may or may not be true, and while they add to the mystique of Saint Patrick, they are not based on historical fact. The true legacy of Saint Patrick lies in his tireless efforts to spread the Christian faith in Ireland and his enduring influence on the people and culture of that land.