b ?Ailclyde, now Dumbarton c370 (or the village of Bannaven), d Saul, Co Down, Ireland c461. Born to a Romano-British family, at 16 he was enslaved and taken to Ireland by raiders. In Co Antrim and/or Co Mayo he herded cattle for 6 years, learning the Irish language and becoming a believer in Christ. Allegedly prompted by a vision, he ran away and after travelling some 200 miles was reluctantly taken on board ship. After their provisions ran out the crew were impressed when on landing, probably in France (Gaul), Patrick’s prayers led them to a herd of pigs. Some time later a further vision gave him his mission to evangelise Ireland. He may have studied in the monastery at Lérins (c412–415) and been ordained deacon at Auxerre around 417. In 431 he was sent back to Ireland to help the mission of Bp Palladius, whose departure for Scotland and death led to the consecration of Patrick as bishop. His work began in Ulster or Leinster; he planted a church at Sabal Patraic (later ‘Saul’) and then went to the court of the High King Laoghaire at Tara in Meath. Opposed by the Druids, and countering with miracles reminiscent of Moses confronting Pharaoh’s magicians in Egypt, he gained a foothold for the Christian faith at all levels including royalty. He proceeded to preach and found churches and communities throughout Connaught, Leinster and Meath, and after visiting Rome c442 he founded the cathedral of Armagh as the centre of the Irish Church (444). His achievements include primary evangelism mainly in the west, uniting existing churches in the north, and strengthening Irish contact with the wider Western (RC) church. He promoted Latin as the ecclesiastical and literary language and c450 wrote the Confessions, a work of apologetics. In all these traditions it has long been hard to separate historical fact from pious mythology surrounding the man whose status as Ireland’s ‘patron saint’ has hindered rather than helped a proper appreciation of his genuine spiritual work and major achievements. No.842.

Hymns and songs by Patrick

Number Hymn Name
842 I bind myself to God today