‘St Patrick’, by Oran Gartland

From the Editor: Happy St Patrick’s Day from all here at the Newman! To celebrate, here’s a post from Oran!

Happy St Patrick’s Day! This is the day where people throughout the world celebrate their Irish heritage. With parades, the wearing of shamrocks and Irish music, everything that is traditional to my native land finds itself in the spotlight both at home and across the globe. This is wonderful and brings great joy to so many, but perhaps it would be helpful to reflect on St Patrick, the man to whom we in Ireland owe so much. What can we learn from the “Apostle of Ireland” today?

Patrick was born in the 5th Century in Roman Britain, and at the age of sixteen was captured by Irish pirates. He spent six years in Ireland as a slave, working as a shepherd, before returning home. During all his struggles he found God, and writes in his Confession that his time of captivity was critical to his spiritual development, eventually leading him to convert to Christianity. This is something which has always amazed me. As seen in the lives of so many great saints, hardships seem to bring us closer to Jesus. It is precisely in our struggles and our brokenness that we open ourselves up to receive God’s grace.

Having studied Christianity further, St Patrick studied for the priesthood in France. Despite being much more comfortable than when enslaved in Ireland, he received a vision prompting him to return to the island of Ireland “We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and walk again among us.” In a completely selfless act, he returned to the land of his enslavement as a missionary. Even his return to Ireland was not without its difficulties. Persecutions came and he found himself in opposition to the pagan practices of the time. Nonetheless, thousands were baptized and, having become a Bishop in his later life, Patrick ordained many to priestly ministry. He sowed the seed of faith for future generations, with the fruits of his labor still evident in “The Land of Saints and Scholars” as Ireland became known. 

As I reflect on the life and work of this great man, it seems to me that his total surrender to God’s will was key. Through prayer and his intimacy with God, his vocation was revealed and he lived a life of service to this calling. For our Church to grow today, we need young people like Patrick who are not afraid to say “Here I am Lord; I come to do your will.” The Lord is still calling us to this in today’s world, whatever that may mean for each individual. It is only through the missionary zeal of great saints like Patrick that the message of Jesus will reach our hurting world. God raises up great saints in every generation!

We pray today through the intercession of St Patrick, who knew what it was like to have to leave his homeland, for the people of Ukraine. May the Lord grant peace in our world.

St Patrick’s Breastplate;

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Oran Gartland, MMath Mathematics, Univ