St. Patrick’s Day – Esker








LÁ FHÉILE PHÁDRAIG:  You are invited to come and join us in Esker for the St. Patrick’s Day Mass at 11am on Friday March 17th.


Patrick was born c. 386 AD,  in Bannavem Tiberniae in Britain (or Britanny?): his father was Calpurnius, a Deacon in his community.

At age 16, young Patrick was taken captive with many others, by Niall of the Nine Hostages, and Patrick ended up, it is said, as a slave near the mountain of Slemish (Sliabh Mis) in Co. Antrim. There he tended sheep and other animals until the age of 22 or so. During that time, often alone on the mountain during the night, he found again the faith that he had learned but not lived, when he was a teen at home. He came to a great love for Christ.

He escaped at about age 22, travelled from Wicklow probably to Brittany. Later, he heard, in a dream, the call to return to Ireland to minister to the people who had enslaved him. He studied in Auxerre, in France, and was there for possibly twelve years. He trained as a priest, and later was ordained a bishop and sent back to Ireland. Many ridiculed him for his folly, but he was resolute.

Tradition is that, in 432AD,  he landed on a beach at Raholp, in Strangford Lough, in Co. Antrim, and spent his first night in Saul, nearby. There is a church in his honour there today.

He travelled through many parts of Ireland, preaching the Gospel and bringing the Irish ‘heathens’ to faith in Christ. He loved them dearly, despite all his hardships. He was desperately homesick, but would not leave, for fear he would never return. He stayed in Ireland for another thirty years, converting, baptizing, and setting up monasteries.

He died c. 461, and is reputedly buried in Downpatrick.

Patrick left us two writings, one called the ‘Confession’, a song of praise of God for his calling Patrick to work among the Irish people. The other is the ‘Letter to Coroticus’, who was a pirate who had taken captive many newly baptized men and women, and taken them into slavery.

Some quotations from Patrick: (Ireland was ‘the back of beyond’,  then!)

  • ‘We are indeed witnesses that the Good News (Gospel) has been preached in distant parts, in places beyond which nobody lives.’
  • ‘I came to the Irish heathens to preach the Good News…I gave up my free-born status…I am ready to give even my life… It is there that I wish to spend my life until I die…among a people newly come to belief whom the Lord took from the very ends of the earth. ‘Is ansin is mian liom mo shaol a chaitheamh.’
  • About himself: ‘I was like a stone lying in the deep mud. Then he who is mighty came and in his mercy he not only pulled me out, but lifted me up and placed me at the very top of the wall.
  • ‘One night I saw a vision of a man called Victoricus, who appeared to have come from Ireland with an unlimited umber of letters. He gave me one of the and I read the opening words which were ‘The voice of the Irish’. As I read the beginning of he letter I seemed at the same moment to hear the voice of those who were by the wood of Voclut which is near the Western Sea. They shouted with one voice: “We ask you, holy youth, come and walk once more among us.” I was cut to the heart and could read no more.’
  • In another place: ‘He passed over (the learned ones) for me a mere outcast. He inspired me to be the one who would serve the people faithfully to whom the love of Christ brought me. The love of Christ indeed gave me to them to serve them humbly and sincerely for my entire lifetime if I am found worthy.
  • ‘We are a letter of Christ bearing salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth’.
  • ‘Today, I offer …the living sacrifice of my life to Christ my Lord.’
  • ‘Spread out our nets…make disciples of all nations… go into all the world.’
  • ‘I cannot hide the gift of God which he gave me in the land of my captivity. I sought him vigorously then, and there I found him. He kept me from all evil because of his Spirit who lives in me and worked in me up to this day.
  • At the end: ‘Let your conclusion and the general opinion rather be the real truth, that my success was the gift of God. This is my confession before I die.

Jesus was like a magnet, for Patrick. Patrick was drawn to Jesus Christ in a deep way, from the time of his being taken captive at about the age of sixteen. For the six years of his captivity (probably near Slemish Mountain in Co. Antrim) Patrick found again the faith that he had so lightly held, in his earlier youth. Ever after, young Patrick and not-so-young Patrick, was filled with a sense of the presence of Christ and the love of Christ,  all about him and within.

‘Jesus Christ, yesterday, today, the same forever’ (Hebrews 13:8). He can be a magnet for us today, if only we let ourselves be drawn to him. He longs for us, and waits for an answer.

Also, in his Confession, Patrick gives us his own version of the Creed: Profession of faith in the Trinity: It goes like this:

‘There is no other God, there never was and there never will be, than God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe as we have been taught: and his son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have been always with the Father and to have been begotten spiritually by the Father in a way which  baffles description, before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, defeated death and was recevied into heaven by the Father who has given him all power over all names in heaven, on earth and under the earth; and every tongue will acknowledge to him that Jesus Christ is the Lord God.

We believe in him and we look for his coming soon as judge of the living and of the dead who will treat every man and woman according to their deeds. He has poured out the Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and guarantee of eternal life, who makes those who believe and obey daughters and sons of God and joint hairs with Christ. We acknowledge and adore him as one God in the Trinity of the holy Name.’

Statue of St. Patrick, Aughagower, Co. Mayo.

AGHAGOWER (AUGHAGOWER)  The village of Aghagower lies about six miles from Westport. It is on the path of the Tochar Phadraig that goes from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick. It claims a rich history of contact with our Saint. It is well worth a visit, – if you can find it!


Patrick baptized the local chieftain, Sinach, and ordained him Bishop.



Soon after, on Shrove Tuesday in 441, he and others walked to nearby Cruachan

From the pedestal of the same statue

Ailleach (Croagh Patrick), and spent 40 days there, returning in time for the Easter Ceremonies on Holy Saturday. Maybe we could join him in spirit, for the remainder of these 40 days of Lent?

Finally, a prayer ‘In gratitude for the life and witness of St. Patrick’: written by Rev. Ken Newell, formerly Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and a great friend for many years of the Redemptorists in Clonard:

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Thank you for the faith you awakened in the people of this island through the courage, suffering and missionary zeal of Patrick, your servant and our brother in the Faith.

Across the centuries and through many generations of loving and faithful believers within your Church, this gift of faith has come down to me and blossomed in my heart.

Heavenly Father, awaken it afresh I pray, so that in the spirit of Patrick, I too may enthusiastically bear witness to your unconditional and unfailing love. I offer this prayer through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Saviour and Lord. Amen. 

(From ‘The Spirituality of St. Patrick’, Vibrant, Personal, Universal –  by John J. ó  Riordáin C.Ss.R. 2011)

Séamus Devitt C.Ss.R.



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