St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland

As a teenager, Patrick's home was somewhere along the western coast of Britain at a time when it was a colony of the Roman empire. He called himself both a Briton and a Roman. At age sixteen, he and a number of his father,s slaves were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Patrick was made to work as a shepherd. Living out in the open, the young boy suffered from hunger and cold. Later he would write: "I was chastened exceedingly and humbled every day in hunger and nakedness." Whereas he had previously been somewhat indifferent in his faith, now he would spend his long hours among the flocks reciting endlessly the prayers he had learned as a child from his mother. His captivity had occasioned a spiritual conversion.

After six years, Patrick escaped and made his way back to France. He was convinced that both his sufferings and his escape had taken place for some divine purpose. He became a priest and then a bishop with the memory of his experience in Ireland haunting him. But rather than seeking revenge for the wrong that he had received at the hands of the Irish, he was drawn by a sense of compassion.

In a number of dreams he saw the Irish people looking to him for help. He heard their voices: "We beseech thee to come and walk once more among us.", He understood this to be an invitation to come and share his Catholic faith with them. He returned to Ireland in 432.

Patrick's thirty years as a wandering bishop in Ireland are wrapped in legend, but the scope of his achievements is a matter of historical record. He was a man of deep faith, who embraced a life of prayer and penitential practices. Through his preaching and example the Irish people were drawn to share his faith in Jesus Christ. He baptized tens of thousands and ordained hundred of priests. He set up a network of churches and founded several monasteries throughout the country, continually urging his people to greater holiness. Eventually Patrick's Ireland became the source of many missionaries who, following his example, went to other lands to spread the Christian faith.

St. Patrick's return to his oppressors to call them to peaceful acceptance of the gospel is an example of compassion and reconciliation that stands in contrast with the attitude of vengeance that so troubles the world today. He is the patron saint of Ireland and all those who seek peace.