Patrick was born in the later half of the 4th century AD. There are differing views about the exact year and place of his birth. According to one school of opinion, he was born about 390 A.D., while the other school says it is about 373 AD. Again, his birth place is said to be in either Scotland or Roman England. His real name was probably Maewyn Succat. Though Patricius was his Romanicized name, he was later came to be familiar as Patrick.
Patrick was the son of Calpurnius, a Roman-British army officer. He was growing up as naturally as other kids in Britain. However, one day a band of pirates landed in south Wales and kidnapped this boy along with many others. Then they sold him into slavery in Ireland. He was there for 6 years, mostly imprisoned. This was when changes came to him. He dreamed of having seen God. Legend says, he was then dictated by God to escape with a getaway ship.
Finally, he did escape and went to Britain. And then to France. There he joined a monastery and studied under St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. He spent around 12 years in training. And when he became a bishop he dreamed that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God. The Confessio, Patrick's spiritual autobiography, is the most important document regarding this. It tells of a dream after his return to Britain, in which one Victoricus delivered him a letter headed "The Voice of the Irish."
So he set out for Ireland with the Pope's blessings. There he converted the Gaelic Irish, who were then mostly Pagans, to Christianity. He was confident in the Lord, he journeyed far and wide, baptizing and confirming with untiring zeal. And, in a diplomatic fashion he brought gifts to a kinglet here and a lawgiver there,but accepted none from any.
Indeed, Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. Through active preaching, he made important converts even among the royal families. And this fact upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times,but escaped each time. For 20 years he had traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion. He developed a native clergy, fostered the growth of monasticism, established dioceses, and held church councils.
He died on March 17, AD 461. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's ever since. Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday. Or, rather, 'be an Irish Day '. And the Irish has borne it as part of their national tradition in everywhere they populated and prospered. The Catholic feast day for this most loved of Irish saints has become a holiday in celebration of the Irish and Irish culture.
Even though I am of Irish heritage, and today we feast on corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, Irish soda bread, and lots of other delicious foods (recipes sent down through the generations) I know that on this day, people from all over the world want to be Irish. And I still love hearing the story of this great man every year.
Happy St. Paddy's Day.