St. Patrick is, without a doubt, one of the great hero-saints in the history of the Church. Forget the green beer and Leprechauns with rainbows: this guy was seriously spiritual with God’s grace running through his veins.
Born to a Catholic family in Roman Britain, his father was both a Catholic deacon and a local Roman ruler, and his grandfather was a priest. But Patrick himself didn’t take his faith too seriously. And why should he have? He had a comfortable life and a bright future with endless possibilities.
That is, until a nightmare scenario descended on him when he was just 16 years old: he was violently captured by pirates. Ripped from his native Britain, they took him back to pagan Ireland where he was sold into slavery, reduced to nothing more than someone’s property.
He was humiliated and terrified. Would he ever see his family again? Would he ever regain his freedom? Would he die in this strange and God-forsaken land? In utter hopelessness, Patrick turned to one of the few things he had left: the Catholic faith his parents had taught him.
He tried praying, seriously praying, perhaps for the first time in his life. He was ordered to shepherd his master’s flock, which allowed him to pray throughout the day. And what a change it brought about for him! This was a turning point for his whole life, as he later explained in an autobiography:
“More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day I prayed… a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.”
Then, one night – after several years in which he was forced into hard, dirty work, but his spirit was growing ever closer to God – he had a mystical experience. A voice supernaturally spoke to him saying, “You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.” What did it mean? Looking at his circumstances, there certainly didn’t seem to be any way out. But during another night not much later, he heard another voice, “Behold, your ship is ready.”
A ship? He was 200 miles from the nearest harbor. But he stepped out in faith, and trusted that God would lead him. So, after six years of slavery, he made a run for it. Guided only by faith, he somehow made it to the harbor. And just as he did, he found a ship getting ready to leave for Britain.
Unfortunately, they went off course and landed in a rural area of Britain. After nearly a month of traveling on foot, they had run out of food and were nearly starving. Patrick had been trying to convert them, and so they lashed out at him, wondering why his God wasn’t helping them. He implored them to give themselves to Christ, which they finally did – immediately after which they came across a herd of wild boar.
These men were perhaps Patrick’s first, of many, converts. And Satan couldn’t stand it. Patrick wrote that “the very same night while I was sleeping Satan attacked me violently, as I will remember as long as I shall be in this body.” He says at one point during the struggle, a giant rock fell on top of him, pinning him with incredible force. He called out for help and something strange happened: a bright light from the sun suddenly fell upon him and shook him free. Patrick credited Christ for having miraculously saved him.
He finally made it home. But God didn’t let him rest for too long: he had another supernatural vision during the night in which he heard the people of Ireland cry out to him, “We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.” Another night soon after, he received another message: “He who gave his life for you, he it is who speaks within you.” After all he had been through, all his mistreatment and hardship, God was calling him to return to land of his slave-owners.
He devoted himself to studying the faith and was soon ordained a deacon, then a priest, and finally a bishop. And, obedient to God’s call, he set off for Ireland.
And that’s when the miracles started – lots of them.
Soon after he landed in Ireland, he was met by a druid king. Seeing that he had come to preach the Christian Gospel, the king tried to kill him – but, miraculously, his arms stopped moving. He lifted him his arm to strike him, but he could not move it down to hurt him. Only after he had decided to be friendlier to Patrick did his arm move normally again.
One biography claims that Patrick regularly healed people, and even brought people back from the dead:
“For the blind and the lame, the deaf and the dumb, the palsied, the lunatic, the leprous, the epileptic, all who labored under any disease, did he in the Name of the Holy Trinity restore unto the power of their limbs and unto entire health; and in these good deeds was he daily practiced. Thirty and three dead men, some of whom had been many years buried, did this great reviver raise from the dead…”
The same biography also recounts an incredible standoff between Patrick and a powerful druid king. The local ruler had declared that no one would light a fire on the eve of Easter. Following liturgical custom, Patrick defied the king’s order and lit a paschal fire. Furious, the king ordered 27 chariots to go and arrest him. Patrick could see the soldiers coming, but calmly said, “May God come up to scatter his enemies, and may those who hate him flee from his face.” Within sight of the king, suddenly, all the soldiers fell down on the ground. Terrified at Patrick’s power, the king prostrated himself before Patrick. The next day, the king converted to Christianity.
These are just a few examples of thousands of miracles attributed to the great saint, which helps to explain the greatest miracle God worked through him: his astonishing evangelistic success. Some sources estimate he established over 300 churches and personally baptized 120,000 people. Praise the Lord! At the end of his life, the Christian faith was firmly established in Ireland – and it has remained so to the present day.
If only we have faith and give ourselves completely over to Him, imagine what God could do in all of our lives!