☩ 17th March: Saint Patrick

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Today it is Saint Patrick who is patron of Ireland but is celebrated in many European countries around the world. Obviously due to the coronavirus this festival will not be celebrated in almost any country. But I want to remember at least a little the story of this saint with this post.

Saint Patrick  was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of Ireland, the other patron saints being Brigit of Kildare and Columba. Patrick was never formally canonised. Nevertheless, he is venerated in the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Churches, the Old Catholic Church, and in the Eastern Orthodox Church as equal-to-the-apostles and Enlightener of Ireland.

The dates of Patrick’s life cannot be fixed with certainty, but there is broad agreement that he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the fifth century. Nevertheless, as the most recent biography on Patrick shows, a late fourth-century date for the saint is not impossible. Early medieval tradition credits him with being the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, and regards him as the founder of Christianity in Ireland, converting a society practising a form of Celtic polytheism. He has been generally so regarded ever since, despite evidence of some earlier Christian presence in Ireland.

According to the autobiographical Confessio of Patrick, when he was about sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals; he lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

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