Archive for March 17th, 2009

St. Patrick

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We commemorate the life and work of Sucat (aka Patrick of Ireland). The life of Patrick (like so much else in the early centuries of the Church) is surrounded by mystery and legend. He was probably born in Dumbarton in England in the latter part of the 4th century, around 375-390 A.D. His mother was a sister of, or at least was related to, the famous Martin of Tours. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all appear to have been clergymen. When Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by the Irish raiding king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and carried away to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. His new master, Milchu, sent him into the fields to keep cattle. It was there, in the Irish fields, that Patrick began to consider the God of his fathers:

And there the Lord opened (to me) the sense of my unbelief, that, though late, I might remember my sins, and that I might return with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who had respect to my humiliation, and pitied my youth and ignorance, and took care of me before I knew Him, and before I had wisdom, or could discern between good and evil; and protected me and comforted me as a father does a son.

After many adventures and an interval of years of which little is known, Patrick was able to return to his mother and father who begged him never to leave them again. But though Patrick was out of Ireland, he could not get Ireland out of himself. One night he had a dream:

And there I saw, indeed, in the bosom of the night, a man coming as it were from Ireland, Victoricus by name, with innumerable letters, and he gave one of them to me. And I read the beginning of the letter containing “The Voice of the Irish.” And while I was reading aloud the beginning of the letter, I myself thought indeed in my mind that I heard the voice of those who were near the wood of Foclut, which is close by the Western Sea. And they cried out thus as if with one voice, “We entreat thee, holy youth, that thou come, and henceforth walk among us.” And I was deeply moved in heart, and could read no further; and so I awoke. Thanks be to God, that after very many years the Lord granted to them according to their cry!

In response to the dream, Patrick left for Ireland arriving around the year 432 and spent the rest of his life in evangelizing the Irish people. The “Lorica” (or “Breastplate”) was composed by Patrick as a prayer begging God for protection when traveling. We no longer realize the importance of such prayers but in the days of the early missions into pagan lands they were invoked with great earnestness. Patrick said, “I daily expect either murder, . . . or to be reduced to slavery, or mishap of some kind. But I fear none of these things, on account of the promises of the heavens; for I have cast myself into the hands of the Omnipotent God, who rules everywhere, as saith the prophet, ‘Cast thy thought on the Lord, and He will sustain thee.’”

God mightily blessed his labors and for that, we rightly remember him and give thanks for his life and faithfulness.

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