The earliest accounts of Saint Patrick can be traced in a number of ancient biographies, the earliest dating from the last half of the 7th century AD. The only certain knowledge we can ascribe to him comes from his two works, Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, which was written during his career as a bishop, and the Confession, written in his later years of his earthly existence.
His year of birth is speculated to be dated sometime between the years 388 and 408. From his writings, we know that Saint Patrick was born in Bannavem Taberniae, a village in southwestern Britain, to a deacon father named Calpornius, and a Gaelic mother named Conchessa, presumably a sister or niece of Saint Martin of Tours, intimately connecting him to Gaul.
At the age of 16, Saint Patrick was abducted by pirates and was taken to Ireland, where he was a shepherd slave for six years. He constantly prayed during this time for repent of his youthful sins, and for his religious fervor a voice spoke to him and promised his return to his home country. Patrick returned, fleeing his slave master and being given safe passage on a ship by its sailors.
After his return, he was elected as a bishop, and was sent by the Church to evangelize Ireland. Patrick believed in his divine call, although his friends constantly tried to dissuade him from returning to the place of his years of slavery, which was still radically pagan at that time. Although Saint Patrick probably made his quarters at Armagh, he also travelled a great deal around the island as a missionary, and is recorded in history to have baptized many thousands of pagans, instituted monasteries, and ordained other clergy.
It is said that Saint Patrick encountered the Druids at Tara, and brought an end to the pagan rites by winning their faith. He converted warriors and pagan nobles, baptizing them in the Holy Wells that still bear his name to this day.
The clover is strongly associated with Saint Patrick and Ireland, as it is regarded that he taught and explained the Holy Trinity to the pagan folk through its three leafs. Saint Patrick is known in legends as driving all the snakes out of Ireland, but we can interpret this only as being an analogy, banning the old, pagan religion from the country, as serpent symbolism was common and often worshipped throughout the pre-Christian land. Another legend says that he thrust his ash wood walking staff into the ground while evangelizing the pagans in the place now known as Aspatria, and the message of his teachings took so long to be understood by the pagans that his staff started rooting and growing into a tree by the time he was finished there.
It is presumed that he died at Saul, in Downpatrick, Ireland, on the 17th of March, 460 AD, and that his jawbone was preserved in a silver shrine used to ward off epileptic fits and the ‘evil eye’, and was highly requested in times of childbirth. Another account tells that he died in Glastonbury, England, and that he was buried there in the Chapel of Saint Patrick, that still exists today as a part of the Glastonbury Abbey.
Saint Patrick is remembered all around the world through numerous Catholic places of worship that bear his name. We celebrate Saint Patrick every year on the 17th of March, which is regarded as a feast day. Saint Patrick’s Day came to be associated with Ireland, shamrocks, green and prosperity, and is celebrated as a day for spiritual renewal, piety, and worldwide missionary pray offerings.