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St. Patrick

Patrick is known as the Apostle of Ireland. He was born in Scotland in 387 to Calphurnius and Conchessa. Calphurnius belonged to a high-ranking Roman family and held an important office in either Gaul or Britain. Conchessa was related to St. Martin of Tours. When he was sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sold to a chieftain in Ireland. For six years, he was a slave, tending sheep in the valley of Braid. He relates in his autobiography, the “Confessio” that he spent more and more time in prayer as he watched the flocks; finally he was inspired to escape and made his way about 200 miles to the sea, where he was able to board a ship back to Britain. He was now determined to bring the Gospel to the Irish people; during his time in captivity, he had learned the native tongue and also about the religion of the Druids. He studied at St. Martin’s monastery in Tours and then under St. Germain, who ordained him to the priesthood. He accompanied St. Germain on a mission to Britain, but he yearned to return to Ireland. Germain recommended him to the pope, St. Celestine I, who entrusted Patrick with the mission of evangelizing the Emerald Isle. Many miracles of told of St. Patrick’s evangelization of Ireland. The Easter after Patrick’s arrival in Ireland (around 433), he kindled the Paschal fire on the hill of Slane; in vain the Druid priests sought to put it out. The fire burned brightly, and many people were won by Patrick’s preaching. The main king or chieftain granted him permission to preach across Ireland. This permission did not make him and his party entirely safe, for some of the lesser chieftains and many of the Druids opposed him and on twelve occasions he and his companions were held captive for awhile. Later, he would teach about the Holy Trinity to some Irish kings using the shamrock’s three leaves as a symbol of the Three Persons in one God. Patrick made many saintly converts, including St. Brigid. He preached throughout the whole of Ireland, setting up parishes and dioceses. Different sources give conflicting years for his death. Some say he died March 17, 493, but others say he died in 460 or 461.

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