Saint Patrick - 17th March

17 March 2015 | Australia

Reflections on St Patrick, patron Saint of Ireland

We are fortunate to have historical data in the form of Patrick's own words in:-
- The Confessions of St Patrick
- The "Lorica" or "The Deer's Cry"
- The Letter to Soldiers of Coroticus
Those three writings are universally accepted accounts as being documented personally by St Patrick. This gives balance to the many legends, myths, oral tradition and historical interpretation attributed to St Patrick's ministry in Ireland.


History informs us that St Patrick was appointed by Pope Celestine 1 (422-432)  as second bishop to Ireland. He was preceded by Bishop Palladius. The year of arrival of St Patrick appears to be in the last year of Pope Celestine's papacy 432 AD.

Prior to Patrick's evangelisation role in Ireland his life there as a slave herding sheep proved to be  the preparation ground of suffering and prayer leading to his call to respond to their invitation to return one day in a different capacity. His role as a shepherd of sheep developed into a greater call as Shepherd of God's people with enduring impact and continuing influence throughout the following centuries.

The book of Confessions was most likely written in a dialect familiar at that time. It is a humble confession from a man of great humility. It is a testament to his faith, spirituality and beliefs. There is repeated evidence of his knowledge of Scripture and his internalisation of the workings of God in the culture in which he was planted. He respected the spiritual traditions of the people and God's encounter with them prior to his arrival. The Celts had already found Divinity in all around them in the air, sea, land, rivers and wells and in the animal kingdom. Patrick reverently integrated many of their symbols into his evangelisation methods. He baptised from their wells, explained the unity of the Trinity in the shamrock and superimposed the cross on a radiant sun of resurrection.

Patrick professed his great love of God. In humility he acknowledges his unworthiness whilst being aware that God is working in him, raising him up from the mire and placing him on top of the wall (cf psalm 40:1-2). He had a dream and like Jacob (Gen. 28:16) on awakening knew that God was in that place; the place within where God resides!

His writings are a testament to his faith and conviction of his call; an example too of forgiveness, love and concern for a people who enslaved him. Like the Suffering Servant he was familiar with abandonment. He experienced slavery and exile and identified all as following in the footsteps of the Master.

Patrick's unique and enduring spirit applies to our present time in history as we follow the call in this Year of Consecrated Life in our particular form of discipleship.

Happy St Patrick's Day to all!


Images: "Kilbennan St. Benin's Church Window St. Patrick Detail 2010 09 16" by Andreas F. Borchert. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons

St Patrick's roses. Photo: Sr Elizabeth Bones ssjg. Used with permission.