Slave to Saint – The Journey of St. Pádraig
St. Patrick’s Day, (actually known as St. Paddy’s Day– short for Pádraig), is celebrated annually on March 17th. While we enjoy partaking in St. Paddy’s day festivities around the world, the true history of this holiday remains unknown to most. This lively holiday is a celebration of St. Patrick, a 5th-century missionary and patron saint credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. However, the story of St. Patrick’s life and work is not so simple.
St. Patrick, originally named Maewyn Succat, was born at the turn of the 4th century as a Roman-British Christian. Around the age of 16, he was taken captive by Irish pirates in a raid on his family’s British estate and sold into slavery in Dalriada. For 6 years, he lived in captivity as a lonesome shepherd with only his faith to turn to. Enduring isolation and starvation, he “united his sufferings as a slave to the sufferings of his savior.”
One night, he dreamt of a vision from God commanding him to ‘Wake up and run to the coast. There will be a boat waiting.’ Fervently traveling 200 miles to the coast of Ireland, he happened upon a cargo ship en route to Britain, delivering him from captivity. After being lost at sea for days, then wandering in the wilderness for weeks, he was eventually reunited with his family in Britain.
Inspired by his newfound freedom, Maewyn devoted his life to studying religion in France. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary, incorporating Irish culture and symbols into Christianity. In his years as a priest, he produced works of literature, founded councils and monasteries, and sorted Ireland into dioceses. In honor of these works, he became widely known by the title of “Patricius” (or Irish “Pádraig”), a derivative of the Latin word meaning ‘father’.
Though St. Patrick was never formally canonized within the Catholic church, his works and devotion to Christianity have had a great impact on Irish culture to this day.
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