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On March 17 we honour Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who brought Christianity to the northern tribes of that country in the early fifth century.

A native of Cornwall or Devon, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates who sold him into slavery in their homeland. Six years later he fled his Irish masters, returned to Britain, and was eventually ordained to the priesthood. He had a vision that he would return to the land of his former captivity, and around the year 438 the vision came true. He was made a bishop and given charge over the mission to the Irish.

Despite his chronic sense of personal unworthiness, Patrick proved to be an effective organizer, and his mission quickly evolved into a vibrant institution. He also encouraged the growth of Irish monasticism, and within a few generations of his death monks and nuns had replaced warriors as the heroes of the Irish people.

The great hymn called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” was probably not composed by him, but it does reflect the kind of Christian spirituality which he planted in the heart of the Irish nation — a spirituality deeply penitential, but still more deeply alive to the sustaining presence of Jesus Christ.

Saint Patrick Catholic Church (Junction City, Ohio) - stained glass, Saint Patrick