March 2012: St. Patrick

In the 21st century, most people associate Saint Patrick with wearing green outfits, festive parades and all things Irish—but did you know that the patron saint of Ireland was actually the son of a Roman military officer who was stationed in Great Britain?

At the age of 16, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland. Although he worked in servitude tending sheep in miserable conditions for six years, once he finally escaped to Britain he decided to return to Ireland to preach the Gospel to the tribes and clans who worshipped pagan gods at that time.

When the early Church was looking for missionaries to evangelize in Ireland, Pope Celestine I understood that Patrick possessed the extraordinary qualities of a missionary, plus an understanding of the Irish people that would help him spread the Good News to northern and western Ireland–a part of the world where the Gospel had never been preached.

At the age of 42, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and in bringing Christianity to Ireland he helped the people preserve their treasured history and culture. Patrick set up monasteries, convents, and parishes and adapted Irish celebrations to Christian feasts. Saint Patrick’s died on March 17, 493, and his feast day is celebrated about the world on the anniversary of his death.