Providentially, his time in captivity became a preparation for his later work as bishop and evangelist. He learned to speak the Celtic language, and, because his master practiced Druidism, he became very familiar with the religion that he would almost single-handedly replace with Catholicism among the people of Ireland.
A vision of an angel compelled him to leave his master and flee to England, where he studied at a few monasteries and eventually became a priest. With St. Germain he preached against the Pelagian heresy. Together they performed many miracles and converted a great number.
The Pope, so impressed by Patrick, sent him to Ireland to convert the Irish people to Christianity. Before Patrick set out on his mission, he was made a bishop. When he arrived in Ireland, one of his first acts was to visit his former master, pay the ransom owed him, and give him a blessing and forgiveness for his cruelty as a master.
On several occasions, Patrick met with violent opposition by the Druid chieftains. When one of them tried to kill Patrick with a sword, Patrick make his attacker’s arm immovable and did not relieve it until the attacker pledged obedience to Patrick. He eventually converted his attacker and every Druid chieftain and king who sought to kill him.
Everywhere Patrick went, he converted people by powerful preaching and miracles. He also formed several parishes and dioceses throughout Ireland. He ordained priests, healed the sick, expelled demons, and brought the dead back to life. Through boundless prayer and severe penances he sought the salvation of Ireland. He continued until his death to visit and watch over the churches he had founded throughout all the land.
Patrick is the one who first used the shamrock as a tool for teaching the Trinity. “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, a prayer he composed on the morning of a great victory over paganism, remains to this day a popular Catholic prayer. He is called “The Apostle of Ireland” because of his tireless evangelism in that land, and is one of the Church’s greatest saints.
For more about St. Patrick and the conversion of Ireland, see the following resources:
- Catholic Culture: Optional Memorial of St. Patrick
- New Advent: St. Patrick
- Patron Saints Index: Saint Patrick
- Saint of the Day: St. Patrick
- St. Patrick, Confessio
- St. Patrick, "Breastplate" prayer
- Office of Readings: Commemoration of the Feast of St. Patrick
- Warren H. Carroll: The Conversion of Ireland
- Lives of Saints: Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland
- Fr. John Harris, OP: Croagh Patrick ("St. Patrick's Mountain")
- Fr. Billy Swan: St. Patrick and the New Evangelization
- National Catholic Register: St. Patrick, Pray for Us!
- Durmott J. Mullan: St. Patrick's Long Line of Muddy Boots
- Kevin Wright: Three-Day Getaway to Purgatory (on "St. Patrick's Purgatory")