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.
Patrick was born in Roman Britain. His birthplace is not known with any certainty; some traditions place it in England but claims have also been advanced for locations in both present-day Scotland and Wales.
His father, Calpurnius, was a Decurion and deacon, his grandfather Potitus was a priest from Bonaven Tabernia, Patrick, however, was not an active believer.
According to the Confession of Saint Patrick, at the age of sixteen he was captured by a group of Irish pirates. They took him to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. Patrick writes in the Confession that the time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He explains that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven his sins and convert to Christianity. While in captivity, he worked as a shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God through prayer, eventually leading him to convert to Christianity.
After six years of captivity he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he travelled to a port, two hundred miles away, where he found a ship and with difficulty persuaded the captain to take him. After three days’ sailing, they landed, presumably in Britain, and apparently all left the ship, walking for 28 days in a “wilderness” and becoming faint from hunger. After Patrick prayed for sustenance, they encountered a herd of wild boar; since this was shortly after Patrick had urged them to put their faith in God, his prestige in the group was greatly increased. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties. After returning home to Britain, Patrick continued to study Christianity.
Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” Acting on his vision, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Patrick returned to Ireland, probably settling in the west of the island, where, in later life, he became a bishop and ordained subordinate clerics.
Patrick baptised thousands of people, he ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too. The Confessio is generally vague about the details of his work in Ireland, though giving some specific instances. There are several mentions of travelling around the island, and of sometimes difficult interactions with the ruling elite. He does claim of the Irish:
Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!
Legend credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older. The shamrock has since become a central symbol for Saint Patrick’s Day. In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, a fact that may have aided Patrick in his evangelisation efforts when he “held up a shamrock and discoursed on the Christian Trinity”. Icons of St Patrick often depict the saint “with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other”. Legend also says that the snakes had all been banished by Patrick chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill.
Source – wikipedia