St. Patrick was carried off in his youth from Britain to Ireland where he lived as a slave tending pigs. There his spiritual life grew as he spent his days in prayer, growing closer to God. After six years he escaped and was able to return to his family. But in a dream one night, he had a vision of a man named Victorious who came from Ireland and gave him a bundle of letters. These letters were the voices of the Irish people, calling to Patrick to return to them. He was convinced that this was a call to establish the Church in Ireland, which at that time was not a Christian country.
But before he returned, he studied. For the next 21 years he prepared himself at monasteries in France.
In 432, he returned to Ireland as a bishop. He gained protection from the rulers first by confronting the Druids, the pagan priests. Then he travelled throughout the island, making thousands of converts.
He accomplished his mission while facing mortal dangers every day. One legend has it that a powerful king was prepared to ambush Patrick and those with him, but they miraculously became invisible, and the king only saw deer passing by, although he heard voices chanting these famous words of St. Patrick, often called the Deer Cry:
"Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in my lying down, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my arising,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me."
He is often pictured driving the snakes out of Ireland. In truth, Ireland has no snakes, but there is no report of him actually driving them out. The snakes pictured with him represent the darkness and sin that were driven away when he brought the gospel to them.
Saint Patrick loved the Irish, and the Irish, in turn, love him. He brought to them the Light of Christ.
Our home has always had a small statue of St. Patrick, which holds a place of honor.
(sorry about the reflection in this pic. It was lit from above, and I couldn't get a perfect shot.)
February 23, 2007.