Today, 17 Mar 2012, those places in the world that have ancestral links back to Ireland rejoice in the great feast day of St Patrick. In our parish even those without ancestral links to Ireland choose to wear the green today in his honour. Why? Because there very few Saints who have converted so many people, as well as a whole nation, to faith in Jesus Christ.
We believe that St Patrick was born around 389 to Christian Roman parents living in Britain. At 16 he was captured by pirates, taken to Ireland and sold as a slave. He worked for his master as a shepherd. It was a hard, lonely life, but it made Patrick turn to prayer and to learn to love Jesus and Mary in a special way. In this harsh school of prayer Patrick began to develop that dependance on God and that certainty of God’s power from which, years later, would spring forth his great prayer of a spiritual warrior: St Patrick’s breastplate www.stpatricksday.com/history/stpatrick/breastplate.shtml .
Eventually with God’s aid he escaped from Ireland, and began studies to become a priest. Patrick was ordained about 417. He believed that God wanted him to go back to Ireland some day to bring the Good News of Jesus to them. At this point we can see his readiness to forgive those who had enslaved him, and the desire to save souls that burned within him. Prayer, study and patience were God’s tools for getting Patrick prepared for this significant mission.
After a very long wait, in 431, Patrick finally got his desire to go back to Ireland, and in 432 was made a bishop. Gifted with prophecy, miracles and the gift of preaching, Patrick was spiritually equipped by God for this ministry. He traveled from village to village, preaching to local chieftains and anyone he could find, bringing the gift of faith to many people. He visited Rome in 442, where Pope St Leo the Great asked him to organize the Church in Ireland into dioceses. He built many churches and many monasteries.
Through his witness many were inspired to give their lives totally to God. He prayed and did great penances to win from God the gift of conversion of Irish souls, and God performed many miracles through him. One time he prayed and fasted for 40 days for the Irish people. Thankfully much is known about St Patrick from a book he wrote called his ‘Confessions’ www.confessio.ie/etexts/confessio_english#01 and several Lives that have been written about him www.gutenberg.org/files/18482/18482-h/18482-h.htm#chap6012 . (These texts are very inspiring to read.) After a long life of prayer and work for Jesus, Patrick died on March 17, 461. When he died the whole Irish nation was Christian.
St Patrick was an extraordinarily successful missionary. This was firstly because he placed such a high priority on prayer, especially intercessory prayer. Secondly he had diligently studied theology, to prepare for priesthood but also to seek out those Christian teachings which would resonate most with the Irish peoples. Thirdly, he knew their language, customs and how Irish society ticked. He was also utterly convinced that God’s will for him was the evangelisation of Ireland, which was confirmed by Rome appointing him as a bishop for this purpose. Lastly, he was gifted by God with significant charismatic gifts, -including holy boldness in God’s service, and even gifts of administration - which greatly aided this purpose. He is a role model and hero to all of those who desire to co-operate with God in the salvation of souls.
St Patrick, pray for us.
Novena to St Patrick
Blessed St Patrick, glorious Apostle of Ireland, who became a friend and father to me for ages before my birth, hear my prayer and accept, for God, the sentiments of gratitude and veneration with which my heart is filled. Through you I have inherited that faith which is dearer than life. I now make you the representative of my thanks, and the mediator of my homage to Almighty God. Most holy Father and patron, despise not my weakness; remember that the cries of little children were the sounds that rose, like a mysterious voice from heaven, and invited you to come among the Irish peoples. Listen, then, to my supplication; may my prayer ascend to the throne of God, with the praises and blessings which shall ever sanctify your name and your memory. May my hope be animated by the patronage and intercession of our forefathers, who now enjoy eternal bliss and owe their salvation, under God, to your courage and charity. Obtain for me grace to love God with my whole heart, to serve Him with my whole strength, and to persevere in good purposes to the end, O faithful shepherd of the Irish flock, who would have laid down a thousand lives to save one soul, take my soul, and the souls of my countrymen, under your special care. Be a father to the Church and her faithful people. Grant that all hearts may share the blessed fruits of that Gospel you planted and watered. Grant that, under your guidance we may learn to consecrate all Christian duty to the glory of God. Protect my native land, and direct its chief pastors, particularly those who teach us. Give them grace to walk in your footsteps, to nurture the flock with the Word of Life and the Bread of Salvation, and to lead the heirs of the Saints you have formed to the possession of that glory which they, with you, enjoy in the kingdom of the Blessed: we ask this through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.