Who was St. Patrick?


Saint Patrick, (389?-461?), called the Apostle of Ireland, Christian prelate. His birthplace is uncertain, but it was probably in southwestern Britain; his British name was Succat. At 16 years of age he was carried off by Irish marauders and passed his captivity as a herdsman near the mountain Slemish in county Antrim (according to tradition) or in county Connacht. 

Saint Patrick, known as the Apostle of Ireland, became bishop of Ireland sometime after 431. Many legends exist about his life, including that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, as is depicted here.

The young herdsman saw visions in which he was urged to escape, and after six years of slavery he did so, to the northern coast of Gaul. Ordained a priest, possibly by Saint Germanus, at Auxerre, he returned to Ireland. Sometime after 431, Patrick was appointed successor to St. Palladius, first bishop of Ireland. Patrick concentrated on the west and north of Ireland, establishing his see at Armagh. Patrick's two surviving works are written in Latin and demonstrate his acquaintance with the Vulgate translation of the Bible. In one of these works, the Confessions, Patrick portrays himself as an ignorant yokel in an unequal contest with the powerful and learned adherents of Pelagianism. His reported use of the shamrock as an illustration of the Trinity led to its being regarded as the Irish national symbol. A strange chant of his, called the Lorica, is preserved in the Liber Hymnorum (Book of Hymns), and what purports to have been a handbell he used during Mass is shown in the National Museum in Dublin. His traditional feast day is March 17.

"Patrick, Saint," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000