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Roman Catholic Resources: Patron Saints

St. Patrick
Patron Saint of Ireland - - - Feast Day: March 17

From: The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001
c.385-461, Christian missionary, the Apostle of Ireland, b. Bannavem Taberniae (an unknown place in Britain, possibly near the Severn or in Pembroke). He was one of the most successful missionaries in history.

Early Life and His Calling
The facts of Patrick's life are largely obscured by legend. He belonged to a Christian family of Roman citizenship. Captured when barely 16 by Irish marauders and enslaved, he worked for six years as a herder on the slopes of Slemish (near Ballymena, Co. Antrim) or of Croaghpatrick or (most likely) of both. Then, in response to a voice, he escaped and embarked for Gaul.

New Advent-Catholic Encyclopedia
St. Patrick-------Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland,  in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 493.

He had for his parents Calphurnius and Conchessa. The former belonged to a Roman family of high rank and held the office of decurio in Gaul or Britain. Conchessa was a near relative of the great patron of Gaul, St. Martin of Tours.

Patrick was not Irish to begin with. He was born in Scotland at a time when Ireland was a land of pagan kings and warriors. His parents were Romans, probably there as merchants or administrators of a Roman Colony.

It is unclear exactly where Patricius Magonus Sucatus (Patrick) was born--somewhere in the west between the mouth of the Severn and the Clyde--but this most popular Irish saint was probably born in Scotland of British origin, perhaps in a village called Bannavem Taberniae. (Other possibilities are in Gaul or at Kilpatrick near Dunbarton, Scotland.) His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon and a civil official, and his grandfather was a priest.

True history and legend are intertwined when it comes to St. Patrick. It is known that he was born in Scotland and was kidnapped and sold in Ireland as a slave. He became fluent in the Irish language before making his escape to the continent. Eventually he was ordained as a deacon, then priest and finally as a bishop. Pope Celestine then sent him back to Ireland to preach the gospel. Evidently he was a great traveller, especially in Celtic countries, as innumerable places in Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are named after him. Here it is where actual history and legend become difficult to separate.

Saint Patrick was born in 387 A.D. in Britain as Maewyn Succat. His father Calphurnius was a Roman official. Saint Patrick was kidnapped at age 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland, according to his autobiography .He escaped by boat to Britain after six years of captivity and traveled to St. Martin's monastery in Tours, France, where he studied under Saint Germain of Auxerre and became a priest. In 431 A.D. Pope Celestine I named him Patricius and sent him on a mission to Ireland.

So who was the real St Patrick? We can confidently say that he was a real person. He tells us so himself, having left us a record, his Confessio, a justification of his life, written in Latin when he was an old man. This authentic record is a fascinating insight into Patrick, the man; written in his own words, we hear all about his fears and concerns, but little concrete about the places he went to, churches he established and people he met.

He was from Bannavem Taberniae, part of Roman Britain. Scholars have placed this settlement in a number of places: Carlisle, Devon and Wales are amongst the claimants. He was kidnapped from his Christian family by an Irish raiding party and taken to Ireland at the age of 16. As a captive in Ireland he herded animals, either sheep or pigs - his Latin is ambiguous on this point.

The "Confession" of Saint Patrick
This autobiographical confession was written by Patrick himself, in Latin, around the year 450. It offers a unique record of life in the British Isles during those times. Born in England or Scotland, kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland as a teen, escaping probably to northern France, and returning to Ireland as a missionary after a prophetic dream... it's quite amazing that this record has survived!

"I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people.."

The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, and he almost didn't get the job of bishop of Ireland because he lacked the required scholarship.

Far from being a saint, until he was 16, he considered himself a pagan. At that age, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his village.

Required Reading for Italian-Americans...

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