St Patrick

When the original St Patrick’s  Church was built in the  1800s   ( now demolished) many of the priests who served in the Church  and the congregation were  Irish and the choice of the decoration and the naming  reflected their influence.  As time passed a new Church was built in  Pentrebane Street and this too has elements related to St Patrick, the   Patron Saint of Ireland.   On the main altar  there are shamrock symbols and the walls of this altar were decorated with golden crosses  on a blue background.

A large white  stone statue  of  St  Patrick stands above the main  entrance  to  the Church and a smaller statue of St Patrick stands beside the entrance to  the sacristy.  The original  free -standing  St Patrick statue was much larger, and legend has it  that Canon Tom Phelan carried it on his back  from the old church to the new. 

 

St.  Patrick's  Day  is  celebrated  in  many  communities  across  the  world  each  year  on March  17th. 

Not  much  is  known  about  his  early  life,  but  it  is  believed  that  he  was  born  in Wales  into  quite  a  wealthy  family and may have been welsh-speaking.   At  a  young  age  he  was  captured  and  sold  into slavery  by a group of marauders  who  raided  his  family  estate.

 

Patrick  was  a  slave  for  six  long  years,  during  which  time  he lived  and  worked  an isolated  existence  as  a shepherd.  He  finally  managed  to  escape  his  captors,  and according  to  his  writings,  a  voice  spoke  to  him  in a  dream,  telling  him  it  was  time to  leave  Ireland.

  

It  is  said  that  Patrick  walked  nearly  200 miles  to the Irish coast  and having reached safety,  he then   experienced  a  second   revelation— an  angel  in a  dream  telling  him  to  return  as  a  missionary.   He travelled to  Gaul  ( modern day  France)  where  he received   religious  instruction  under the  Bishop of Auxerre.  His study lasted  for  more  than  fifteen  years  and  culminated  with his  ordination  as  a priest.

 

After his return  to Ireland,  it  is said  that  Patrick  was  imprisoned  on  several occasions,  but  he  managed  to escape  each  time.  He  travelled  extensively throughout  Ireland,  establishing  monasteries  across  the  country, setting  up  the schools  and  churches  that  would  aid  him  in  his  conversion  of  the  Irish  to Christianity.

He is believed to have   died  on  March  17th  in  AD 461,  and  since  then,  the  date  has  been  commemorated  as St.  Patrick's  Day.

 

A  rich  tradition  of  oral  legend  and  myth  surrounds  St. Patrick .  Some  of  these legends  recall  how  Patrick  raised  people  from  the  dead,  others  that  he  drove  all the  snakes  from  Ireland.  However,  snakes have never been present in Ireland but it  is  thought that St Patrick used ‘snakes’ to refer to those who were reluctant to embrace Christianity.

Another  Irish tale  which  may  also  have  an  element  of truth  about  it tells  how Patrick  used  the  three-leafed  shamrock  to   explain  the  Trinity.  It is thought that he used  it  to  show  how  the  Father,  the  Son,  and  the  Holy  Spirit  could  all  exist  as separate  elements  of  the  same  entity. His  followers  adopted  the  custom  of  wearing the  shamrock  on  his  feast  day.

Prayer from St Patrick’s Breastplate (part of a poem by St Patrick)

 

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

 

An Irish Blessing  ( attributed to St Patrick)

 

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

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