9 facts about Saint Patrick of Ireland (PLUS the Two Patrick Theory)

Here are 9 facts (including the Two Patrick Theory) about Saint Patrick of Ireland:

  1. Saint Patrick was not Irish. He was born in in Roman Britain. His Latin name Patricius is Roman and in Latin it means “Patrician” or “noble.” Saint Augustine of Hippo’s father (Saint Monica’s husband) was also named Patricius.
  2. Saint Patrick wrote an autobiography titled Confessio or “Confession.”
  3. Saint Patrick was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, as he himself testifies: “My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon. His father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae (Confessio, 1).
  4. At age 16, Saint Patrick was abducted by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland to serve as a slave for 6 years, until his 22nd year. He served as a slave shepherd and during his time in the fields, he returned to the Christian God that he had learned about as a child. Patrick speaks of God in this way: “This is the one we acknowledge and adore – one God in a trinity of the sacred name.”
  5. At age 22, he heard the voice of God telling him to escape slavery and run to the ocean’s port…200 miles away.
  6. Patrick was asked “suck the breasts” of the sailors who offered him a ride to Britain. Saint Patrick explains:I heard one of them shout aloud at me: “Come quickly – those men are calling you!” I turned back right away, and they began to say to me: “Come – we’ll trust you. Prove you’re our friend in any way you wish.” That day, I refused to suck their breasts, because of my reverence for God. They were pagans, and I hoped they might come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is how I got to go with them, and we set sail right away. (Confessio, 18)Literally sucking the breast of another signified the protection of one over the other. The practice was known in North Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Turkey, Armenia, Caucasus region, Albania, as well as Ireland.
  7. Saint Patrick studied Christianity on continental Europe: He studied at Auxerre and received the tonsure at Lérins Abbey. Saint Germanus of Auxerre consecrated him as a missionary bishop.
  8. Saint Patrick is said to have driven all the serpents from the island of Ireland. However, post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. The tradition of driving snakes out of Ireland may be an allegory for Saint Patrick refuting and winning back the adherents of the Pelagian heresy (the false teaching that a person may be saved through the positive power of human nature without grace).
  9. Irish documents seem to refer to “Two Patricks” and this has given rise to the “Two Patricks Theory.””Patrick the Elder” (Patraic Sen) is said to have died in AD 457. However, there is also a record for the death of the another Patrick in AD 493 (33 years later) who is called the “Patricius the Arch-apostle of the Scoti.” The Annals record annals record that in AD 553 “the relics of Patrick were placed sixty years after his death in a shrine by Colum Cille.” This would testify to his death in AD 493. It’s very likely that the “first Patrick” or “Patrick the Elder” is in fact Saint Palladius who was a Catholic missionary bishop to Ireland and died around AD 460. The missionary efforts of Saint Palladius were likely conflated into the life and memory of Saint Patrick who effectively succeeded Saint Palladius.

Happy feast of Saint Patrick’s Day. Please share and spread this post about Saint Patrick so that people come to know the historical Catholic bishop, theology, and missionary of Ireland: Saint Patricius!

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Saint Patricius, pray for us.

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Dr. Taylor Marshall

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