St. Patrick was not Irish; he was probably Welsh or English. He was Christian, and his family was comprised of high ranking officials. The young Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders sometime during the 5th century AD. He was taken to Ireland and sold as a slave. Legend has it that he was forced to work as a swineherd or a shepherd. During this difficult time, his faith sustained him. His deep faith allowed him to bear his harsh life as a slave.
Over the years, Patrick came to love the people who had enslaved him. He grew very concerned for their salvation. They were pagan, and if they were not baptized as Christians they would not be saved. Patrick wanted to bring the Word of God to the Irish people.
After many years as a slave, Patrick was released by his masters. He formulated a plan. Patrick returned to Britain and studied for the priesthood. After his ordination, he asked the local bishop for permission to preach the Word of God to the Irish.
It was not easy to preach in Ireland. The Druids, the Celtic pagan priesthood, were his particular enemies. However, Patrick’s preaching was powerful, and he soon gained many followers. Patrick was particularly successful in converting local kings and chiefs.
St. Patrick was a gifted preacher, and used the Shamrock to explain the Trinity to the mostly illiterate Irish pagans. He used the three leaved clover to explain the Christian teaching of three persons in One God.
Miracles were very important in Patrick’s efforts to convert the Irish. He used them to demonstrate the superior power of Christ. In one instance, Patrick lit a fire against the wishes of the Druids. They tried to put the fire out, but they failed.
Perhaps the best known miracle of St. Patrick was the banishing of the snakes from Ireland. The saint drove all the snakes into the sea.
These miracles persuaded the people of Ireland that Christianity was more powerful than the old pagan Celtic gods.
St. Patrick was totally dedicated to his mission of converting the Irish:
“If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they despise me.”
He was motivated to preach the world of God because he wanted to save souls:
“He who believes shall be saved.”
Before he died, St. Patrick had converted much of Ireland. He is reputedly buried in Downpatrick, County Down, Ireland.