Who is Saint Patrick? And Why Does He Get a Day?

Kyle T. Panter, PharmD • 3 minutes

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! March 17, also known as Saint Patrick’s Day, is a day marked with celebrations of all kinds worldwide. Traditions include parades, leprechauns, shamrocks, green-dyed beverages, and even pinching people who forgot to wear green. But who is St. Patrick? Did he really drive all the snakes out of Ireland? No. Is he the great-great-great-grandfather of the leprechauns? Again, no. Was he, like, super lucky? Definitely not.

So, who is St. Patrick?

Saint Patrick’s life story has more twists, turns, heartaches, and adventures than a Hollywood blockbuster. Yet, his life offers inspiration to modern Christians in many ways.

Here are 5 highlights.

  1. Patrick had doubts about God. He noted in his biography that, early in his life, he “knew not the true God.” If you struggle with doubts, you’re not alone. Doubt helped Patrick discover a healthier faith in God.
  2. Patrick became a slave to an Irish chief after being captured and sold by raiders as a teenager. During his six years of forced labor, he questioned God through prayer and found some peace. He came to understand that God was always working for good, even if Patrick couldn’t understand why he suffered.   
  3. Patrick eventually escaped his captors and found his way back to his family in England. He entered into seminary and, after several years, became a priest.
  4. Eventually, God called Patrick to return to Ireland, to the land of his worst fears, and to share the Gospel with the Irish people. Where some may have run the other way, Patrick accepted God’s mission with the kind of forgiveness and love Jesus described in Matthew 5:43-48.
  5. Patrick was uniquely able to tell others about God because of his captivity. He was fluent in the Irish language and understood their customs and culture. Patrick knew that gaining the influence of clan leaders was essential to success. Eventually, he led his former master to faith in Jesus.  

Patrick faithfully carried out his ministry in Ireland until his death on March 17 in 462 CE. It’s estimated that Patrick ministered in Ireland for nearly 40 years. During this time, it is said Patrick baptized 120,000 people and helped build 300 churches.  

So who is St. Patrick? A former doubter and slave, a man, tested by the fire of trials and tribulations, a prayer warrior who followed God’s call, and a strategic missionary who changed an entire country for Christ. It certainly is a day worth celebrating!   

“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 excerpt from “The Breastplate,” a prayer by Saint Patrick

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!