St. Patrick (387-493) was born in Kilpatrick, Scotland, to Roman-British parents. He was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of sixteen and sold as a slave to a Druid high priest. He worked as a shepherd and spent much time in prayer as he labored in the fields. He also acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic language and the Druid cult, which later enabled him to evangelize the Celtic people.
After six years of slavery, an angel told him to flee his oppressive master and return to his native land. Upon returning to Britain, Patrick desired to devote himself to God’s service. He went to France and placed himself under the direction of St. Germain, who ordained him a priest and sent him to evangelize the pagans in Ireland. St. Patrick devoted the rest of his life to converting the island to Christianity.
He was ordained a bishop and himself ordained many priests. He divided the country into dioceses, held local Church councils, founded monasteries, and urged the people to greater holiness. He suffered much opposition from the Druids and occult magicians, who, threatened by Christianity, conjured demonic power to defy Patrick. However, the prayer, faith, fearlessness, and episcopal authority of Patrick triumphed, and he was so successful in his endeavor that in the Middle Ages Ireland became known as the Land of Saints, and himself the “Apostle of Ireland.” Later, the missionaries sent from Ireland to Europe were largely responsible for the Christianizing of the continent.
St. Patrick’s feast day is March 17th.