In the 4th century AD, a man called Calpornius and his wife Conchessa were sent by Rome to Britain to serve as deacon, civil official, town councilor and generally to oversee Roman interests. Information about this couple is very sparse, but the year is believed to have been around 380 AD, a time when Great Britain wasn’t so great since it was under the rule of the Roman Empire. After several years, the couple produced a son whom they named Maewyn. Now, it was the law decreed by Rome that any child born of a Roman citizen anywhere in the world was also a Roman citizen. So, Maewyn, the Roman citizen, being the son of well-to-do parents, enjoyed the good life, but lived a pagan lifestyle which was far from the church’s teachings his father represented. God was not a part of his life.
When Maewyn was about 16 years old, his village was invaded by a gang of Irish marauders who abducted him and sold him into slavery. He served as a slave, tending the sheep of an Irish chieftain. It was during these years of enslavement that Maewyn had placed the blame for his present situation squarely on himself, viewing it as a punishment for turning away from God. Sometime during the years he tended the chieftain’s livestock, he experienced an epiphany of faith. The once carefree pagan boy had gradually become a deeply religious man who possessed a steadfast faith in God. He prayed often and his reverence for God grew even stronger. One night, in response to a voice that came to him in his sleep, he escaped from bondage and traveled hundreds of miles to a ship which brought him to France. From there he made his way back to Britain, but was ever mindful of the voice he heard in his sleep. Maewyn spoke also of a dream in which he described the first few words of a letter he received which read, “The voice of the Irish…” He said, “They shouted with one voice,” ‘We ask you boy, come and walk once more among us.’ In his dream he was devastated and could read no more. When he awoke from the dream, he felt a calling which burned in his soul. He would become a missionary to the pagan Irish who had enslaved him for six years. To prepare for the mission, Maewyn went to Auxerre, France where after much study, was ordained a deacon. He continued his studies under Bishop Germanus (St. Germain) and eventually expressed his desire for a mission to Ireland. Bishop Germanus recommended Maewyn to the pope. Pope Celestine granted that Maewyn return to Ireland to preach God’s word. It was at this time Pope Celestine gave Maewyn the name Patritius (Patrick), meaning “father of his people” and elevated him to the office of bishop.
Little is known of the hardships which he endured in Ireland, but among his writings was found evidence that he had been insulted and abused and bound in chains but that he endured these hardships for the good of others. He found that the pagan Irish had strange beliefs and seemed unable to grasp the concept of the Blessed Trinity. In Ireland, a small plant called the shamrock abounds to this day. It is a plant similar to a three-leafed clover. Patrick would pick them and use them to illustrate by example that each of the three leaves represents a person of the Holy Trinity, yet all three, attached to one stem, are but one entity just as there are three divine persons in one God. Much of the account of Patrick’s life which you read is gleaned from his Confession, a document he wrote entirely in Latin, shortly before his death. The Confession has been studied and debated endlessly by historians and scholars.
Finally, it seems that the controversy regarding Saint Patrick’s national origin has raged on for several centuries with no foreseeable end. Saint Patrick, a very great saint, is truly loved by many around the world, but simply loving someone does not automatically change their nationality. Historical documentation indicates that Saint Patrick originated from outside of Ireland, and that he entered Ireland twice in his lifetime, once as a slave and the other as a missionary. These historical facts, backed by documentation, speak for themselves. However, in addition to the law in effect at the time of his birth, the fact remains that Patrick was born of parents who were native to Rome, Italy. On that simple truth alone, he would be Italian by hereditary lineage and that fact, by its very nature, is not subject to controversynor is it likely to change. Therefore, Saint Patrick was indeed Italian by birth.
BUON GIORNO DI SAN PATRIZIO!
[Image from the Library of Congress digital collection at