Saint Patrick and the Angels (418 - 493)
There has been an ongoing battle between Penny and Bob as to the origins of St. Patrick. He is the Patron Saint of the Irish, having evangelized the Emerald Isle in the middle of the Fifth Century. He is actually called "The Apostle of Ireland". But he was not Irish! He had been kidnapped by Irish barbarians from the south of Wales as a teenager, and was brought to Ireland as a slave. So he had to be from somewhere else. His father is said to have been a Roman magistrate, and the family was Christian. So they probably were not British or Welsh. There's even a slim possibility that he was Italian. Sweet mother Mary, that would mean that Penny was right.
But we have an Irish Monsignor pastor from Tipperary, who insists St. Patrick was not Italian. So the choice is yours; believe Penny or Monsignor Tom. I would just like to leave you with this. I know I read somewhere that if you dispute the solemn words of an Irish priest, or better yet, an Irish Monsignor, especially when it comes to St. Patrick, there may be extra time in Purgatory for you. I'm not saying that's a fact for sure, but would you want to take that chance?
St. Patrick comes from a strong Christian heritage, especially considering the time in which he lived. He was born, most people believe, in the year 418. The Church had only been made legitimate by Constantine the Great, a century before. Patrick's father was a deacon, and it's believed his grandfather was a priest. This was before the laws of celibacy were instituted in the Church. He claimed a Roman background. It is also claimed his name was Patricius Magonus Sucatus. So the argument in favor of Italian heritage really does become very strong here.
His father was stationed in Wales when Patrick was kidnapped. Patrick was a slave in the northeast section of Ireland from age sixteen to twenty two. We're told he didn't know the Lord when he was kidnapped, even though his family was very religious. However, during his captivity, and six years of slavery, the Angels began working on him. Through their ministry, speaking softly to him, giving him moral support when the situation with his captors became extremely dangerous, he developed a strong faith in God, and committed his life to the Lord's Will. At the beginning, he didn't actually see the Angels; he heard them. They advised him; they taught him; they consoled him. After a period of time, he began to look forward to the time when they would come to him. He was very lonely without their companionship. Without them, he was really all alone.
By age 22, he was trusted more by his captors. He was not really treated any better, and the chores he had to perform were no better than when he was younger. But now he was given the job of keeping the watch. They were on the coastline of Antrim, on the northeast part of the country. Patrick was to watch for enemy ships at sea. One night, he fell asleep. An Angel spoke to him in a dream. He said to him, "You have fasted well and soon will go to your own country." Patrick knew in his heart this was an Angel speaking to him, and so he waited.
Shortly thereafter, in a dream, the same Angel gave him a way to get out of the country. He had to make a two hundred mile trip to the coast on foot. That was the least of it. The voyage home was perilous. Although the journey was treacherous, and there were times when Patrick wasn't sure he would survive, the Angels performed miracles, and Patrick returned to his family, after six years of captivity.
Nothing is known for sure about the next twenty years of Patrick's life, other than he studied Theology to a great extent, was ordained, and listened again to the calling of the Angels. He constantly dreamt of Ireland. Though his parents pleaded with him not to return, his heart was helplessly lost in Ireland. When the Angelic visions began to actually bring him letters, he knew he could not ignore their contents, not even for his parents he so loved. In one letter, he read the words, "The Voice of the Irish." The Angels whispered softly in his ears, "We entreat thee, holy youth, to come and walk once more among us."
Needless to say, Patrick went to Ireland, and in a period of thirty years, from age forty to about seventy, he converted the entire country. It is said that at a given point in time, he converted hundreds of thousands. Now how could one person do that all by himself? He had to have help from the Angels. The Angels were very active in his ministry. As a matter of fact, he wheeled and dealed with the Angels. He spent an entire Lent one year at Croagh Patrick, which is a cone-shaped island on the western part of the country, in County Mayo, actually not that far from Knock. Remember we talked about holy clusters? This could very well be an area of holy clusters.
At any rate, during this particular Lent, an Angel came to Croagh Patrick to have a conference with the Apostle of the Irish. Patrick asked for certain concessions for his people, for example; (1) the Irish would hold fast to the Faith until the end of time; (2) a tidal wave would cover the country seven years before the Final Judgment, so the Irish wouldn't be alive to witness this terrible scene; (3) every Irishman, doing penance, would not be doomed to hell on Judgment Day.
He seemed to do all right with these requests. But, as he laid down his demands, he may have gotten a bit carried away with himself. His last request, that he, Patrick, should be allowed to judge the people of Ireland on the last day, was more than the Angel could allow without a meeting on high. Patrick insisted he would not leave the mountain until he was granted that request. The story goes that the Angel left Patrick praying and fasting, while he made a quick round trip to Heaven, to confer with the Lord.
After much debate, and a review of Patrick's zeal for the Lord, plus all the work he had done, and would continue to do, it was determined that he would indeed be granted his desire to judge all the men of Ireland, on the last day.
Patrick had a very special relationship with the Angels, all his life. Verification of this fact may come from a prayer which we were given at the cave of St. Michael in the Gargano. It goes like this;
"Dear Lord Jesus, we ask you to send all the Guardian Angels to form a protective circle around this (car, plane, boat), with St. Michael the Archangel in charge. St. Michael in front of us; St. Michael in back of us; St. Michael to the left of us; St. Michael to the right of us; St. Michael above us; St. Michael below us. (Keep anything that would harm us physically, spiritually, emotionally or mentally away from us, and bring us to our final destination to glorify Your Name.)"
We use that prayer all the time, and have for years, when we're doing any kind of traveling. But on researching this book, we found, in the chapter on St. Patrick, a prayer he had written, called Lorica, which he and his band of disciples prayed on the day the first major conversion in Ireland came about through his intervention. The last verse of the prayer goes like this,
"Christ with me; Christ before me; Christ behind me; Christ in me; Christ beneath me; Christ above me; Christ on my right hand; Christ on my left;...."
St. Patrick wrote that prayer somewhere around 460 A.D. St. Michael claimed the cave of the Gargano in the year 490 A.D. We're not suggesting that Patrick gave this prayer to Michael, or vice versa, but Patrick was very close to the Angels, and we would have to assume he was close to the Prince of the Angels, Michael. It would not be past the Angels or the great Archangel to pass on the same message to the Bishop in the Gargano as he passed on to Patrick in Ireland. We know that the Lord, in Scripture, often came in the guise of an Angel, so why not a prayer to either Jesus or His Angel?
Throughout Patrick's thirty year mission among the Irish people, he is known to have been helped often by his Angelic relatives. Even his last chore on earth, that of dying, was dictated to him by the Angels. Patrick was aware the end was near. He wanted to return to his beloved Armagh to die there. To this end, he set out with great haste. He was stopped along the road, before he had made a day's journey. An Angel came to him, and told him to return to Saul, where he had built his first church, and made his first converts. It's possible that Patrick might have gotten his Irish up on this one, because after thirty years on this soil, he had taken on the personality of his people. However, the Lord was firm on this point, and Patrick returned to Saul to die on March 17, 493. Though we have nothing but our intuition to back up our convictions, it is our solemn belief that an Honor Guard of Angels appeared at his death, and carried their faithful brother up to Heaven with them. Sure and begorra, it must have been a grand sight to see.
Irish Martyrs books and dvds
Pilgrimage to Ireland