Knights of the Pain Table

A Camelot for Sufferers of Chronic Pain

St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland Broke Free of Slavery to Transform Ireland

 Naomh  Pádraig

Patricius ( Latin for Patrick ) was born into a Roman British Christian family near the west coast of Britain.   His grandfather was a Christian priest.   When Patricius was a teenager,  pirates captured this young boy and sold him into slavery in Ireland.  For six years he worked as a Shepard for an Irish chief. 

During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote

“The love of God and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me.”

Eventually Patrick escaped from slavery on a boat to France.  However, this traumatic experience would leave a profound impression upon the young man.

Although not well educated, his deep caring and sincerity led him to become a priest.  Supposedly trained by St. Germanus at Auxerre in Gaul, he trusted God implicitly.

At that time Ireland did not belong to the Roman Empire and Christianity was hardly known on this island.  Most people worshipped the Sun and pagan idols.  Patrick, who learned to speak in Gaelic tongue during his time in captivity  became a very successful missionary in Ireland.

After years of reflection on how the Irish might be reached, he moved into mission…. using parable, story, poetry, song, visual symbols, visual arts and perhaps drama to engage the Celtic people’s remarkable imaginations.    He converted Irish chiefs, set up monasteries and organized the growing church.   His prowess became legendary. 

With St. Brigid as one of his helpers, in 444, Patrick established his Episcopal see (office of the chief bishop ) at Armagh.  Due to his encouragement of the cloistered life, the Irish Church acquired a monastic character with deep devotion. 

Saint  Patrick’s  Retreats

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God.

From time to time he withdrew from the spiritual duties of his apostolate to devote himself wholly to prayer and penance. One of his chosen places of solitude and retreat was the island of Lough Derg, which, to our own day, has continued to be a favourite resort of pilgrims, and it is known as St. Patrick’s Purgatory.  

In 441 AD, Patrick, in obedience to his guardian angel, made Eagle Mountain (Cruachan Aigli ) his hallowed place of retreat.   In imitation of the great Jewish legislator on Sinai, he spent forty days on its summit in fasting and prayer, and other penitential exercises. The mountain was later known as Croagh Patrick and is honoured as the Holy Hill, the Mount Sinai, of Ireland.    It is now the focus of the Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage in Co. Mayo, Ireland.

Near the end of his life he wrote Confessio,   in which he saw his life  as a spiritual journey.  After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, around 461 at Saul, Downpatrick in Ireland,  where he had built the first church.     His remains were wrapped in the shroud woven by St. Brigid’s own hands.  Another account says that St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury, England and was buried there.   The Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Glastonbury Abbey.

Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick may be merely the product of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.

According to legend  St. Patrick expelled all the snakes from Ireland using a holy staff.  He is often depicted driving them out wearing full Episcopal attire in a reference to God’s banishment of the serpent from the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis.  St. Patrick’s striving to rid Ireland of all things pagan and contrary to the message of God is symbolized in the same image. One suggestion is that snakes could have referred to beliefs such as Pelagianism, symbolized as “serpents”.

It is on account of the many hardships which he endured for the Faith, that in some of the ancient Martyrologies, he is honoured as a martyr.  He was a humble missionary of enormous courage.

Around 1625, Patrick became Ireland’s patron saint due to the influence of Father Luke Wadding, a Waterford-born Franciscan scholar.

Personal Note from Lady Sharon

As you travel through the words of St. Patrick’s life, it becomes clear that the horrible trauma he endured as a child, became the pivotal experience that determined his future.  St. Patrick’s lost those years as a slave, but those years taught him lessons far greater than he could have imagined.  He kept love in his heart for those who had used him.   He learned that caring, respect,  kindness and faith were greater forces than scholarly knowledge.   He learned that when you are stripped of everything, you can still have faith to clothe your heart.

When each of us endures something of great magnitude and it leaves us lost and wounded, perhaps it is wise to look at those who walked before us and realize that each experience has value no matter how horrendous.    We could take the gentle hand of those before us and let them guide us through the mire and the pain.    By the very act of trying to endure, often blessings will appear to help us even more. 

May love and laughter light your days,

Irish Blessings from Lady Sharon
Scribe of the Knights of the Pain Table

Visit the Saint Patrick’s Centre in Ireland to learn more about St. Patrick

About The Author


One Response to “St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland Broke Free of Slavery to Transform Ireland”

  1. Lady Sharon says:

    Wilcume Anonymous,

    To look at those who came before us and understand their stories, awakens something within us that can guide our way. I have found that if one looks at any of the Saint’s lives, there are amazing stories of great courage and belief. For those who suffer a great deal, it can be a comfort to read about the lives of Saints, as many of them endured great suffering. History can teach us how to find our way.

    It is our pleasure to share stories that inspire. I thinketh thou is walking on a sacred path and will touch many lives. Thank you for caring about others.

    Your humble Scirbe,
    Lady Sharon