385 AD – 461 AD
Founder of Celtic Christianityby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
St. Patrick, who lived from 385 AD until 461 AD, was one of the first successful people to spread Christianity into Ireland. He was also the first to attempt to teach the gospel to the Celts without bloodshed occurring. Although the exact date of St. Patrick's birth is unknown, he was likely born under the name Patricius around the year 385 in Roman Britain. During his teenage years, he was captured and brought as a slave into Ireland where he was forced to work as a shepherd for six years. He then escaped and returned to the land he was born in.
When captured, Patrick did not have a strong faith in the Lord. As he later noted in his Confessions, “I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people---and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers.” Patrick, the grandson of a priest, realized then that by his enslavement, God might be trying to send a message to him and his people. Prayer played a large part in Patrick’s life of enslavement in Ireland. He prayed several times daily at first, but was soon so moved by the power of God that he prayed almost constantly. Through his strength of faith in God, the Lord helped him to escape his life in Ireland. Following his escape, God gave Patrick a strong desire to spread his faith throughout the country of Ireland. Although part of Patrick longed to live in his native country and see his family, his faith helped him to overcome those feelings and go forth to spread the word of God.
Between the time of his escape and return to Ireland, Patrick studied at the monastery in Gaul under St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. He studied here for approximately 12 years. It is here that God touched his heart for the ministry of Ireland. However, for the conversion of the Celtic Pagans, the church chose St. Palladius instead. Two years after being appointed to Ireland, St. Palladius was moved to Scotland. Patrick then became second bishop to Ireland.
It is unkown when his return to Ireland occurred. Considering he had been enslaved in the country for six years, St. Patrick had a much better understanding of the Celtic people than those who had previously attempted to bring Christianity to Ireland. This understanding allowed Patrick to teach the Celts in ways that were familiar to them, making Christianity seem easier to understand and something they would be interested in pursuing more knowledge of. Patrick mixed his Christian beliefs with a few of the pagan beliefs in order to make what is now called “Celtic Christianity.” He was careful to point on the similarities between the Celts pagan religion and his Christian beliefs, but to always acknowledge the Christian beliefs as the correct ones when he reached the point where the two religions separated in their beliefs. For thirty years, Patrick successfully converted an astonishing number of pagans to Christianity. Aside from ministering to them, Patrick also helped to set up monasteries, schools, and churches for the people of Ireland. All of his success upset the Celtic Druids and, several times, they arrested him. Each time, though, God showed his miraculous power and Patrick was able to escape.
Following an exhausting evangelical mission, Patrick realized that he was growing to weak to continue his ministry. He spent his last few days praying in Armagh. It is likely he died on March 17th, the day he is currently celebrated, 461. Several lessons can be learned from St. Patrick: the power of prayer and remembering to give all the glory back to God. During his capture, St. Patrick, who was then a pagan, realized the power of God. He then prayed night and day and gathered strength and wisdom from the Lord. After his escape, Patrick did not cease praying and God guided him throughout his life to do mission work. Although Patrick did astonishing deeds during his life, he was always quick to say that they were not his works, but God’s. St. Patrick was truly one of the most successful missionaries of his time and still serves as an example to modern missionaries.
Bercot, David W. Let Me Die in Ireland: The True Story of St. Patrick. Tyler Texas: Scroll Publishing Company 1999
Swinnea, Stephanie Lavenia. “I, Patrick, a Sinner..” A Tale Worth Telling. Terlton, Oklahoma: Aaron Algood Books Co. 1999
Adam, David. The Cry of the Deer. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Morehouse Publishing 1987.
"An Irish Journey into Celtic Spirituality” St. Anthony Messenger Magazine, December 12th, 2003