Home > Worship Resources > Festivals & Commemorations > Patrick, Bishop, Missionary to Ireland, 461 (March 17)

About the Commemoration

Patrick (Patricius was his Latin name), the Apostle of Ireland, was born ca. 389 in Roman Britain, the grandson of a priest and the son of the alderman and later deacon Calpornius. The details of Patrick’s life are uncertain. He admits in his brief Confession that he was not religious as a child and had little use for the Church. At the age of thirteen or fourteen, while staying at his father’s country estate, he was seized by Irish raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland. There in hardship and isolation he began to pray every day. After six years as a shepherd he managed to escape, find a ship, and eventually reach home. His experience had been a spiritual conversion, and he now had a certain conviction of his vocation: he was to preach the faith to the Irish people. He studied for the priesthood on the continent His superiors did not favor his mission to Ireland, apparently because of his deficient education, but upon the death in 431 of Bishop Palladius, who had been sent by Pope Celestine to the Irish, Patrick was named his successor and was consecrated bishop for Ireland.

Bishop Patrick’s mission concentrated on the west and the north of Ireland where the gospel had not been preached before. He secured the protection of local kings and traveled extensively making many converts and founding monasteries. The clergy for the country were first brought from Gaul and Britain, but increasingly they were drawn from the native converts. The claim of Armagh to be Patrick’s church, although not recorded before the seventh century, seems to be genuine.

Patrick was criticized by the British when he demanded the excommunication of the British Prince Coroticus, who, in a retaliatory’ raid on Ireland, killed some of Patrick’s converts and sold others into slavery. Despite physical danger and harassment, his was a vigorously’ heroic life. The well-known hymn called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” although probably not by him, expresses his faith and zeal in a powerful and memorable way. The hymn belongs to the genre of loricae, an invocation of the Holy Trinity, angels, prophets, the powers of heaven and earth, and finally Christ himself against the powers of evil.

Patrick died at Saul in County Down in 461. He is remembered on the Roman Catholic. Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist calendars.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.

See also: Saint Patrick


From the Confession of St. Patrick

I give unceasing thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the day of my testing. Today I can confidently offer the living sacrifice of myself to Christ, who kept me safe through all my perils. I can say now: Who am I Lord and what is my calling that you worked through me with such divine power? You did all this so that today among the Gentiles I might constantly rejoice and glorify your Name wherever I may be, both in prosperity and in adversity. Whatever happens to me, I can with serenity accept good and evil equally, always giving thanks to God, who has shown me how to trust in him always, as one who is never to be doubted. He answered my prayer in such a way that in the last days, ignorant though I am, I might be bold enough to take up so holy and so wonderful a task, and imitate in some degree those whom the Lord had so long ago foretold as heralds of his Gospel, bearing witness to all nations.

Where did I get this wisdom, that was not mine before? I did not know the number of my days, or have knowledge of God. How did so great and salutary* a gift come to me, the gift of knowing and loving God, though at the cost of homeland and family? I came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly’ pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even imprisonment, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.

If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for his name. I want to spend my life here until death, if the Lord grant me this favor. I am deeply in his debt, for he gave me the great grace that through me many people should be reborn in God, and then made perfect by confirmation and everywhere among them clergy ordained for a people so recently coming to believe, one people gathered by the Lord from the ends of the earth. As God had prophesied of old through the prophets, “The nations shall come to you from the ends of the earth, and say, ‘How false are the idols made by our fathers: they are useless.’” [see Tobit 13:11; Judith 5:7] In another prophecy’ he said,“I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” [Isa. 49:6]

It is among that people that I want to wait for the promise made by him, who assuredly never tells a lie. He makes this promise in his Gospel, “They shall come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” [See Matt. 8:11] This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world.
Chaps. 14-16, from the English translation of the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., rev. PHP.


Almighty God, who in your providence chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may bring others to the peace and joy of your gospel and come at last with them to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 97:1-2, 7-12 or 96:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12; Matthew 28:16-20
Hymn of the Day:I bind unto myself today” (H82 370; LBW 188 and LSB 604 [abbreviated], ELW 450 [less abbreviated])
Prayers: For the church and people of Ireland; For an end to the many sufferings of the country and deliverance from terrorism and oppression; For missionaries in physical danger and harassment; For zeal in God’s service; For renewed respect for the natural world.
Preface: Epiphany or Apostles (BCP)
Color: White