Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The Reluctant Irishman

Saint Patrick died on this date in around 460 A.D. Though he’s associated with Ireland, he was born in Roman Britain. Young Patrick — whose name at that time was Maewyn Succat — was kidnapped by Irish pirates when he was about 16; they took him back to Ireland and sold him into slavery to a Druid high priest. The priest put him to work as a shepherd, so he spent much of the next six years outdoors and alone, praying. He later saw it as a test of his faith. One night, he had a dream that a voice spoke to him and told him it was time to leave Ireland, so he escaped.

Back in Britain, he had another vision that showed him his mission: return to Ireland and convert the pagans to Christianity. He pursued a religious education in France, which took several years. There were already Christians in Ireland by this time, so he was sent by the Church to minister to them. He already understood Irish language and culture, and wisely chose to incorporate traditional Irish practices into Christian observances, rather than outlawing them. He was very careful to deal fairly with all of the Irish people, Christian and non-Christian alike. By the time he died, he had established schools, monasteries, and churches all over Ireland. Patrick wrote two books, both relatively short. One is his spiritual autobiography, the Confessio. The other is his Letter to Coroticus, which condemned the British mistreatment of Irish Christians.

- From The Writer's Almanac