March 17, around 461 A.D., St. Patrick died.
As a teenager, the Roman Legions guarding his community in Britain had to be withdrawn to defend Rome, as invading heathen hordes, such as the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals and Huns, were overrunning the borders.
Unprotected, Britain was attacked by raiders, who carried away thousands. Patrick was captured and sold as a slave in Ireland, which was ruled by the Druids, who practiced human sacrifice.
For six years Patrick herded animals for a Druid chieftain, as he wrote in his Confession: “But after I came to Ireland – every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed – the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain. … There the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God who … comforted me as would a father his son.”
Then Patrick had a dream, as he wrote: “One night I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: ‘It is well that you fast, soon you will go to your own country.’ And again … a voice saying to me: See, your ship is ready.’ And it was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles. … Then I took to flight. … I went in the strength of God who directed my way … until I came to that ship.”
Patrick eventually made his way back to Britain and was reunited with what was left of his family. Then, when he was about 40 years old, he had another dream calling him back to Ireland as a missionary.
In his Confession, Patrick wrote: “In the depth of the night, I saw a man named Victoricus coming as if from Ireland, with innumerable letters, and he gave me one and while I was reading I thought I heard the voice of those near the western sea call out: ‘Please, holy boy, come and walk among us again.’ Their cry pierced my very heart, and I could read no more, and so I awoke.”
Patrick returned to Ireland, confronted the Druids, converted chieftains and used the three-leaf clover to teach the Trinity.
The Druids tried to ambush and kill Patrick nearly a dozen times: “Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of Heaven.”
Baptizing 120,000, Saint Patrick founded 300 churches. He wrote: “Patrick the sinner, an unlearned man to be sure. None should ever say that it was my ignorance that accomplished any small thing, it was the gift of God.”
In the next century, Irish missionaries sailed back to Europe and evangelized the heathen hordes which had overrun the Roman Empire.
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