St Patrick – how well do you know his life story?


{The Story of St. Patrick}

Maewyn Succat was born in 387 AD in Dumbarton, Scotland (just northwest of Glasgow) to Calpernius (a Roman calvary officer and deacon; his grandfather Potitus, was a Catholic priest).  His mother’s name was Conchessa.   In 403 AD, at age 16, Maewyn was captured by pirates and taken over seas as a slave to look after animals belonging to Milchu, a chieftain.  He served Milchu for six years.  The time he had spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development.  He writes in his Confessions, “And there the Lord opened the understanding of my unbelief so that at length I might recall to mind my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord, my God, who hath . . . taken pity on my youth and ignorance.”  He strengthened his relationship with God through prayer.  Maewyn had much time to pray while he watched the flocks day and night.  He wrote, “I was always careful to lead my flocks to pasture, and to pray fervently. The love and fear of God more and more inflamed my heart; my faith enlarged, my spirit augmented, so that I said a hundred prayers by day and almost as many by night. I arose before day in the snow, in the frost, and the rain, yet, I received no harm, nor was I affected with slothfulness. For then the spirit of God was warm within me.” One day he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready.  Fleeing his master, he made it to a port, two hundred miles away, where he found a ship headed to his homeland.  With difficulty, he persuaded the captain to take him.  After three days sailing, the ship dropped him and others off in a “wilderness”.  They walked for 28 days becoming faint from hunger.  After Maewyn prayed for sustenance, they encountered and killed some wild boars; since this was shortly after Patrick had urged them to put their faith in God, his prestige in the group was greatly increased.   After various adventures including 60 days of captivity in Tours, France, he finally managed to return home to his family.  He was now in his early twenties.  Grateful to God, he diligently studied Christianity and become a cleric. Later, in a vision, a man named Victoricus came to him with may letters begging him to come and evangelize.  They cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy, servant boy, to come and walk among us.”  Courageously, at age 58, Maewyn returned to the land of his former captivity called Keltoi or Galatians by the Greeks and Gauls, or Galli by the Romans.  Over the next 28 years, he brought about as great a transformation in a nation as any man has ever wrought during his lifetime.  His strategy was to convert chiefs first, who would then convert their clans through their influence.  Reportedly, Milchu was one of his earliest converts.  Shortly thereafter Benin, son of the chieftain Secsnen, joined Maewyn’s group.  He wrote that he “baptized thousands of people”. He then ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition.  He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too, including King Laoghaire’s two daughters. He claimed: Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ. On one occasion, Maewyn was forced to write an open letter announcing that he had to excommunicated King Coroticus of Alt Clut because he and “fellow citizens of the devils” had taken some of Mawwyn’s converts into slavery.  It was risky because Maewyn’s position as a foreigner was not an easy one.  His refusal to accept gifts from kings placed him outside the normal ties of kinship, fosterage and affinity.  Legally he was without protection, and he says that he was on one occasion beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains, perhaps awaiting execution.  He was also “many years later” a captive for 60 days.  The Declaration(Latin: Confessio) is a biological sketch, and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus (Latin: Epistola), detail his life. As his ‘family’ grew, he adopted the name, Patricius, “father of the citizens.”  This fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop, who followed Palladius (431), an earlier Christian, became the primary patron saint of the land today known as Ireland.  St. Patrick (not really a Saint with a capital S, having never been officially canonized by Rome) converted a society practicing a form of Celtic polytheism.   The original Celts were tribes out of central Europe (1000 B.C.) sharing a common language and culture.  They were The Celts who defeated Greek armies in Asia Minor.  They liked what they saw and settled down in an area that became Galatia, and spread west from there. It is said that Saint Patrick taught the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant.  In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities. .  It is said that the absence of snakes in Ireland resulted from St. Patrick chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast a top a hill.  However, post-glacial Ireland may never have had snakes.  It is also said that He carried an ash wood walking stick and would thrust it into the ground wherever he was evangelizing.   In Aspatria, conversions took so long that before he was done and ready to move on, the stick had taken root.    St. Patrick founded 700 churches.  He trained and set in place Church leadership — 700 bishops and 3000 ministers.  He set up training centers to educate thousands.  He transformed civil government, working with kings to establish godly laws. He wrote the Liber Ex Lege Moisi, which were extracts from the Laws of Moses. He directed the compilation of the laws known as Senchus Mor, revising old laws in accordance with Biblical precepts.  Liber and Senchus Morbecame the basis for civil law in Ireland.  He revised the old laws in accordance with Biblical precepts and made the Ten Commandments the foundation on which Britons would base their civil law. These laws were also known as the Brehon Laws (from the Irish name of the official lawgiver). He also wrote his famous Confession and other works, which still inspire people today.  Fruit of Patrick’s Work Transformed a Continent!  Many other nations were impacted through those who were trained in the churches, seminaries, and schools Patrick started.  Many holy men and women continued Patrick’s work. The three greatest Irish saints were Patrick, Bridget and Colm Cille (Columba). In the centuries following, Christians swarmed forth, like bees from a hive, from the Irish monasteries and schools to distant lands carrying the faith and truth that brought many people out of barbarism.  One historian wrote: “It was thus, when the whole world seemed irrecoverably sunk in barbarism . . . the Irish went forth into every part of the world,” to spread Christianity and knowledge. The barbarians (Vandals, Huns, Franks, Visigoths, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, etc.) swept through Europe in the 400s, conquering and destroying all before them. The light of the Gospel in much of Europe was threatened to be extinguished. It was at this crucial time that the fruit of the work of Patrick in Ireland began to grow. One modern book’s title describes the influence: How the Irish Saved Civilization. Carrying Christianity, Ireland’s sons “became the teachers of whole nations, the counselors of kings and emperors.”  In addition, Christians from all over England and Europe flocked to Ireland to be trained in the Holy Scriptures, only to return to their lands to sow all that they had learned. The body of Patrick was interred at Dun Da Lethglas (now Downpatrick) with great honor and veneration.  The 17th of March, the supposed date of his death in 493, is still celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day.
Only one life.  It will soon be past.  Only what’s done for God will last.
Let’s bloom, wherever He plants us.

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