Patrick, St.

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Britain around A . D . 389. He was the son of a Roman official. At the age of 16, Patrick was captured by raiders from Ireland and carried back to their homeland. After working as a shepherd for six years, he had a dream in which he was told that a ship was prepared for him to escape his captivity.

The accounts of his journeys at this time differ. He either traveled back to Britain or sailed to Gaul (present-day France). In any event, it seems likely that he visited France, where he joined a monastery and was ordained as a priest. According to his autobiography, the Confessio, he had another dream, in which the Irish asked him to return to their island. St. Patrick left his monastery to travel among the pagan Irish chieftains, converting them and their people to Christianity.

patron special guardian, protector, or supporter

pagan term used by early Christians to describe non-Christians and non-Christian beliefs

Several legends have sprung up around St. Patrick, the most famous one claiming that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea. A popular myth holds that he used the shamrock to explain to a pagan Irishman the Holy Trinity, the idea that God consists of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The shamrock is now Ireland's national flower, worn by the Irish on St. Patrick's feast day, March 17.

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