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The Legacy of St Patrick: A Saint for our Times

March 17, 2017

Patrick was a man of prayer, an exile, a refugee; a justice seeker and a creative teacher.

His legacy to us today is his spirit of prayer, his missionary methods and his readiness to speak and act for justice.

Many legends have sprung up around the story of St Patrick. The truth about him can be found in his own life story called His Confessions.

Patrick was one of many who was captured and brought to Ireland and sold as a slave. He says that it was here in exile and in loneliness that he came to know God, to have conversations with God, to trust in God and in God’s love and protection. (Confessions)

After 6 years of slavery he escaped, went home and studied. He says he could constantly hear the voice of the Irish calling him back. Eventually he was ordained a priest and came back to Ireland as a missionary in 432 AD.

His mission in Ireland was far from easy as he preached the Gospel and spoke out against injustice.

What is the legacy that St Patrick has left us?

  • His spirit of prayer. He had a great devotion to the Blessed Trinity and one of the most beautiful prayers that we have is called the Breastplate of St Patrick. This prayer has also been set to music.
  • His missionary methods. He did not destroy the customs of the heathen Irish but he connected them to Christianity. So today in Ireland there are many places of pilgrimage to sacred places and to holy wells that date back to long before the time of Patrick.
  • He was an exile and a refugee. We can pray to him for the thousands of refugees who are fleeing persecution and violence and for those who have to migrate to find work.

He spoke out with very strong language against slavery. His courage and example can encourage us to speak out today against human trafficking.

He preached and practised justice to all especially the poor, the down trodden and the persecuted. He had great respect for women.


Anne Boland rsj