Saint Patrick's feast day is celebrated on March 17.
The Patron Saint of Ireland was born into either a Scottish or English family in the fourth century. He was captured as a teenager by Niall of the Nine Hostages who was to become the King of all Ireland. Patrick was sold into slavery in Ireland and put to work as a shepherd. He worked in terrible conditions for six years drawing comfort in the Christian faith that so many of his people had abandoned under Roman rule.
Patrick had a dream that encouraged him to flee his captivity and to head South where a ship was to be waiting for him. He traveled over 200 miles from his Northern captivity to Wexford town where, sure enough, a ship was waiting to enable his escape. Upon arrival in England he was captured by brigands and returned to slavery. He escaped after two months and spent the next seven years traveling Europe seeking his destiny.
During this time he furthered his education and studied Christianity in the Lerin Monastery in France. He returned to England as a priest. Patrick dreamed of returning to Ireland, often hearing in his dreams the voice of the Irish crying, "come hither and walk with us once more." He went to the Monastery in Auxerre where it was decided that a mission should be sent to Ireland. Patrick was not selected for this task to his great disappointment. The monk who was selected died before he could reach Ireland.
Eventually Pope Celestine fulfilled Patrick"s wish and commissioned him as a bishop to preach the Gospel to the Celtic people. In the year 432, with a small band of followers, Patrick traveled to Ireland and confronted the most powerful man in Ireland, The High King of Tara. Patrick knew that if he could gain the King's support he would be safe to spread the Word of God throughout Ireland. To get his attention Patrick and his followers lit a huge fire to mark the commencement of Spring. Tradition had it that no fire was to be lit before the King's. Seeing Patrick's torch, the King sent a warband to kill the saint and douse the blaze. The fire, however, could not be quenched. Patrick, with his companions, passed through the warriors in the guise of a herd of deer. Then with quiet composure Patrick calmed the King, saying he had no other intention than that of spreading the word of the Gospel. The King accepted the missionary, much to the dismay of the Druids who feared for their own power and position in the face of this new threat. They commanded that he make snow fall. Patrick declined to do so stating that this was God's work. Immediately it began to snow, only stopping when Patrick blessed himself. Still trying to convince the King of his religion, Patrick grasped at some Shamrock growing on the ground. He explained that there was but one stem on the plant, but three branches of the leaf, representing the Blessed Trinity. The King was impressed with Patrick's sincerity and granted him permission to spread the word of his faith. Patrick and his followers did spread their faith throughout Ireland to great effect. They drove paganism (symbolized by the snake) from the land.
While on a pilgrimage, Patrick was tempted by the Devil. For his refusal to sin, God rewarded him with a wish. Patrick asked that the Irish would hold fast to the faith until the end of time, and that on the day of doom, "I, Patrick, shall be judge of the men of Erin."
Patrick died on March 17th in the year 461 at the age of 76. Several communities contended for the honor of his burial. Tradition has it that the body of Patrick, wrapped in its shroud, was placed upon a cart drawn by two white oxen. The beasts were unreined and wandered to Downpatrick where, it is said, now lies the remains of the Saint, his gravestone a granite boulder marked with a cross and simply inscribed: PATRIC. Today, a stained glass window in Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin reflects the saint's own summary confession:
I am greatly a debtor to God Who hath vouchsafed me such great grace That many people by my means Should be born again to God.