Patricius was born in a part of Britain under Roman rule in the year 387. His grandfather was a priest, and his father a deacon. His home was near enough to the coast that when pirate raiders came they took him for a slave. He was in his teens. He was taken to Ireland and tended sheep. He learned the language and customs of the Irish, but prayed for strength and to be freed. Six years later a vision told him a ship would await his escape. He made his way on foot to the coast 200 miles away, and it was true. A few years after making his way back to his family, he got another vision that told him to go back to Ireland and walk among the pagans and baptize them. He took holy orders and became a priest and bishop, then did what the vision asked of him.
Consider the courage this took. St. Paul and his companions the big-deal first missionaries never got out of their geographic comfort zone, the Greco-Roman empire. They never even considered converting pagans. This self-educated man went back to the same people who had held him in bondage. At such an early point in church history there was no method for doing this sort of missionary work. Patricius had to figure it out for himself.
He first spoke truth to power at the hill of Slane, where he lit the fires without permission of the chieftain, Dichu. Dichu tried to slay him, and his arm was frozen. The chieftain converted. The ex-slave, Bishop Padraig baptized thousands, stood up to kings and princes, and converted them and their wives and children. He had churches built all over the country. Patrick was the first person to speak out against the institution of slavery, many centuries before anyone else followed his example. After 40 years of ministry, he died at Saul, the site of his first church. But the story doesn’t end there.
Rome fell, and the Dark Ages came to Europe. It was the remote Irish monks who copied the manuscripts preserving the wisdom of the Classical ages, so that when the Renaissance came the seeds of that wisdom could be re-planted. If not for Patrick, they wouldn’t have been there, and if they hadn’t been there who can say how long it would have taken to rediscover what Euclid, Plato and Aristotle had left behind, if ever?
Would we even be able to read this without the work of Naomh Pádraig?
If you want the whole story, you can read it in Thomas Cahill’s entertaining book “How the Irish Saved Civilization.”