The Church honors St. Patrick today – Catholic bishop, “Apostle of Ireland,” and one of the most well-loved and celebrated saints of all time. From special Masses to parades, it is as if the whole world rejoices on St. Patrick’s day.
This great patron of Ireland was born in Scotland to Roman parents around 385. His mother was a relative of St. Martin of Tours. When he was 14 years old, St. Patrick was kidnapped by an Irish raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave. For six years in the pagan land, the youth herded sheep for a Druid high priest and chieftain.
Throughout his captivity, St. Patrick fervently prayed to God. He later wrote: “…Fear (awe) increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain…”
At the age of 20, inspired by an angel in a dream, he escaped to the coast and journeyed across the sea back to his family. In Britain, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained. Later, St. Patrick became a bishop. Pope Celestine I charged St. Patrick with the mission of returning to Ireland to draw its people into the fold of Christ’s universal church.