Dr. John (Ellsworth) Hutchison-HallWritings on Orthodox Christian theology and related miscellanea.
St. Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland
Our father among the Saints Patrick of Ireland, Bishop of Armagh, and Enlightener of Ireland, was born a Briton. Captured and brought to Ireland as a slave, he escaped and returned home. Later he returned to Ireland, bringing Christianity to its people. Although St. Patrick achieved remarkable results in spreading the Gospel, he was not the first or only missionary in Ireland, but it was St. Patrick who had the greatest influence and success in preaching the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, he is known as “The Enlightener of Ireland”.
Troparion of St. Patrick — Tone III
Holy Bishop Patrick,
Faithful shepherd of Christ’s royal flock,
You filled Ireland with the radiance of the Gospel:
The mighty strength of the Trinity!
Now that you stand before the Saviour,
Pray that He may preserve us in faith and love!
Kontakion of St. Patrick — Tone IV
From slavery, you escaped to freedom in Christ’s service:
He sent you to deliver Ireland from the devil’s bondage.
You planted the Word of the Gospel in pagan hearts.
In your journeys and hardships, you rivalled the Apostle Paul!
Having received the reward for your labours in heaven,
Never cease to pray for the flock you have gathered on earth,
Holy Bishop Patrick!
Undoubtedly one of the best known of the Saints, his Lives and writings have been widely published in numerous languages and lands. St. Patrick was born in Britain, the son of a local decurio (member of a town council) called Calpornius who was also a deacon of the church, and who had a property near the village (vicus) of Bannavem Taburniae, the location of which is unknown. Patrick was brought up as a Christian, though in no tradition of strong piety. At the age of sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates who took him back to Ireland where he spent six years as a herdsman. Whilst in captivity he experienced a religious conversion, and eventually received a Divine message that he was to escape. He then made his way to a port some 320 kilometres away where he found a ship whose crew he was able to convince to take him to Britain. At some point, he later he went to Gaul and studied for the priesthood at Auxerre under St. Germanus (31st July). Eventually St. Patrick was consecrated bishop, and was entrusted with the mission to Ireland, succeeding St. Palladius (7th July), who had not had much success there. Though the conversion of the pagan Irish people was far from an easy task, St. Patrick persevered despite hostility, violence, and threats of death. However, in the end he baptised thousands of people into Christ, founded many churches and encouraged the growth of monasticism throughout the land. By the time he established Armagh as his See, St. Patrick not only had many native priests and deacons to assist him, but other bishops as well.
St. Patrick is often depicted holding a shamrock, or with snakes fleeing from him. He used the shamrock to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; its three leaves growing out of a single stem helped him to explain the concept of one God in three Persons. It is commonly accepted that the story of St. Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland has no basis in fact.
St. Patrick reposed on 17th March, though the exact year is a matter of some speculation, with dates ranging from 461 to 493. The various accounts of his last days are most likely legend, and it had been said that the place of his burial was unknown, though St. Columba of Iona (9th June) says the Holy Spirit revealed to him that St. Patrick was buried at the site of his first church in Saul, Co. Down, and a granite marker was placed at his traditional grave site in Downpatrick 1899.