St. Patrick: The man and the legend

  • March 15, 2019

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated March 17, the day he died in 461.  In honour of one of the more celebrated saints, here are a few items that form part of the fact and legend of the patron saint of Ireland.


• Though he is associated with Ireland, St. Patrick was actually born in Britain to Roman parents, circa 389.

  At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by pirates who took him to Ireland, where he was held as a slave for about six years, working as a shepherd and developing his Christian roots, as outlined in The Confession of St. Patrick. He escaped back to Britain, became a priest, and returned to Ireland around 430 on a mission of conversion.

• According to legend, he used shamrocks to explain the idea of the Holy Trinity to people. He is credited with driving snakes out of Ireland, though historians have pointed out snakes never really had a home on the island.

• He is also credited with many miracles during his 40 years converting the population, including, according to witnesses at the time, the resurrection of at least 33 dead people.

• He died at Saul, which is also where he built the first Irish church.

• St. Patrick is, of course, known as as the patron saint of Ireland, although St. Brigid and St. Columba, both native to the island, are given the same distinction. Saints have long been given “patron” status by countries, marking them guardians and protectors. St. Patrick is also been given patronage of Nigeria, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Archdiocese of New York and, among professions, engineers and paralegals.


“The Breastplate” is attributed to St. Patrick and known as a prayer of divine protection, written about 433. Here is the most often used shorter version of the prayer: 

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.


“After I arrived in Ireland, I tended sheep every day, and I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God. 

“Faith grew, and my spirit was moved, so that in one day I would pray up to 100 times, and at night perhaps the same. ...  I never felt the worse for it, and I never felt lazy — as I realize now, the spirit was burning in me at that time.”

- From St. Patrick’s Confession, written about 452.

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