St. Patricks Day

Our hymn: “Hail glorious Saint Patrick, dear saint of our isle. On us thy poor children bestow a sweet smile……”


St Patrick was a 5th century Romano-British Christian Missionary, who became a Bishop in Ireland. Known as the Apostle of Ireland, he is the patron saint of that country. His feast is celebrated on March 17th, Ireland’s National Day.


In his writings he called himself Patricius/Latin, which in Irish is Padraig, in English Patrick. His writings, called the “Confession of Saint Patrick,” recall how he was captured at the age of sixteen by a group of Irish pirates, possibly near Carlisle, on Adrian’s Wall. He spent the next six years as a shepherd slave on the Irish mountains.


While there he once heard a voice telling him that he would soon return to his home, which he did. His time in captivity helped him to reflect on God’s mercy to him, and he later became a Christian.


Patrick records that he had a vision a few years after returning home. He writes, ‘I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. He gave me a letter which read, “The voice of the Irish.” As I read it I imagined the voice of those very people who lived near the woods, beside the western Irish sea. They cried out, as with one voice, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, come and walk among us once more.”


Patrick studied for the priesthood in France and returned to Ireland about the year 432. The glorious, stubborn Celtic warriors were converted to Christianity. And the rest is history. Churches and monasteries were built. Ireland became known as, ‘The Island of Saints and scholars.’


As a Bishop Patrick’s See was in the city of Ardmagh. In Ireland, there is a Sunday in August, I think, called Reek Sunday. On this day, every year, hundreds of people climb the rocky Croagh Patrick mountain, in County Mayo, to honour the Saint. He is buried in Downpatrick, County Down.


From the 6th century their boats took the Irish to the rest of Europe and beyond with great zeal to spread the Good News. It is an extraordinary story – a small island nation, with a population of four and a half million, sending disciples to the four corners of the world. The Irish Diaspora continues today, but with young women and men seeking to integrate their skills in the global scene.


Patrick Murphy, living in the Carribean island of Montserrat, is liable to be an Afro-Irish local. Montserrat, in fact, also celebrates St Patrick’s day as a holiday. The West Indian cricket team could include a Roach, a Walsh or a Bonner. The Catholic Cathedrals in New York and Kokstad are named after Patrick. St Patrick is one of the patron saints of the Dioceses of Kokstad, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), and Cape Town. A few years ago I knew two African Anglican Bishops named Patrick.

Written by Dick O’Riordan


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