For all the Saints: Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland
Set aside the silly hats and Guinness on March 17th for a moment and meet Saint Patrick. Born in Britain in 385, Patrick was the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest. At sixteen, he was seized by Irish pirates and enslaved in Ireland, where he lived as a shepherd and turned to prayer. Legend says that he recited all 150 Psalms each day. Six years later, he managed to run away and escaped back across the Irish Sea to Britain, then to France and the monastic life at Lerins. He studied for twelve years with the great leader Bishop Germanus of Auxerre, who eventually ordained him priest. He was ordained bishop in 432.
In his final official act, Pope Celestine I sent Patrick to Ireland, where he fulfilled his dream to be missioner to the Irish. The horologion (book of saints) says he knew “weariness and painfulness, long journeys through difficult country, many perils… When he came to Ireland, as its enlightener, it was a pagan country; when he ended his earthly life thirty years later, the Faith of Christ was established in every corner.”
St Patrick’s greatest achievement may be that he accomplished his mission without force. He used the knowledge and lore of the Irish people to lead them gently to Christian faith.
The Breastplate of St Patrick shares his spirit. Its best-known words are a prayer for circling yourself with God’s Presence:
Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
From St Patrick, we can learn diligence in our own mission, love for the downtrodden peoples of the world (like those among whom he worked), the desire to free the enslaved, and non-violence in sharing our faith. St. Patrick is the genuine article for the whole world.
Published 12 March 05