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Patrick was born in Britain in 387 during the Roman occupation. His father was a deacon in the Church but Patrick did not belong to the Christian faith.

When he was a young teenager, Patrick was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. He spent 6 years as a shepherd on the Slemish Mountain in County Antrim with no company apart from the sheep and pigs. Over this time he started to pray to the God he knew through his father and committed his life to serving Christ.
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One night Patrick heard a voice telling him ‘see, your ship is ready!’ The voice told him to travel 200 miles to Wexford where he stowed away on a ship back to Britain. But Patrick was soon on the road again. He travelled round Europe as he tried to discover God’s will for his life. Eventually he settled at a monastery in France and studied theology before being ordained as a priest and returning once more to Britain.
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But Patrick was still unable to settle in Britain as he heard a voice in a dream appealing to him ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’ He believed this voice was calling him back to Ireland to bring the Christian faith. He did not go straight to Ireland but back to France to prepare himself with more study among the monks of Auxerre. Patrick became well known for his enthusiasm and commitment, but to his great disappointment when a mission was sent to Ireland he was not invited to join it. A couple of years later another mission was formed and this time Patrick was asked to lead it, being made a Bishop by the Pope before he set off.
The King of Ireland vowed to keep to the pagan faith of his ancestors, but gave Patrick and his companions permission to preach the gospel and baptise people. Patrick famously used the three-leaved shamrock to explain to people how God could be a Trinity (three in one). Legend also tells that he drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Life was not easy as a missionary – Patrick was attacked and imprisoned more than once. But people flocked to him to hear the faith and to become Christians. Patrick longed to leave Ireland to visit his family in Britain and the monks in France but never left the country he had been called to.
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Patrick died in 461 at the age of 76. There is no marked grave for him and it is believed he was buried secretly by his friends to avoid arguments about which part of Ireland he should be buried in. He gave his whole life to a country he must have hoped never to see again when he escaped from captivity as a young man.
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Patricks’ life shows how unexpected God’s calling can be, and how tough. Having been a slave in Ireland, it must have been the last place he would have chosen to devote his life to – and yet it seems that God prepared Patrick for his mission in Ireland over many years. Patrick’s life went through many different stages and shows us that the Christian life is made up of three components – prayer, study, and action. Wherever we are we are also called to practice these three components of the Christian life.

Read about Patrick.


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