March 17 is the feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. He was a missionary and bishop and is known as the “Apostle of Ireland.” St. Patrick is the patron saint of: engineers, excluded people, those who fear snakes, and snake bites.
St. Patrick was born in Wales about 385 AD. His given name was Maewyn. Until he was 16, he considered himself a pagan. He was kidnapped from the British mainland at that time by a group of Irish pirates who sold him into slavery. He was taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland was then a land of Druids and pagans. In the midst of his suffering, Patrick turned to God and wrote his memoir, The Confession. In The Confession, he wrote:
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
He escaped from slavery after six years and returned to his homeland. There he heard the call to return and bring Christianity to Ireland, so he went to France and studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years.
He was ordained a priest, consecrated a bishop and returned to Ireland around 435 AD. Patrick was quite successful at winning converts, which led to clashes with the Celtic Druids. He was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity. In thirty-three years, he successfully converted Ireland. Subsequently, Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17, 461.
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