2016-03-17 10:29:00

St Patrick: The immigrant Saint

(Vatican Radio) People all around the world are celebrating the feast of St Patrick of Ireland which is marked on March 17th. It’s the one day in the year when landmarks such as White House fountain and the Colosseum turn “green” for the occasion and everyone is “Irish” if just for a day.

But who was this man known as the “Apostle of Ireland” and what is his lasting legacy? There is uncertainty about when exactly Saint Patrick lived, but it has been documented that he was a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century.

Immigrant Saint

The Confessio of Patrick, gives more clues as to his life and tells us that when he was about 16, he was captured by Irish pirates from where he lived in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland before he escaped returning to his family. So essentially, St Patrick was a refugee, someone who had known hardship and suffering. As Europe grapples with the migrant crisis which is seeing people continuing to flee war and poverty in parts of Africa and the Middle East, what can we learn from this great Irish Saint?

Fr Micheál MacCraith OFM, is the Guardian of St Isidore’s in Rome which is home to the Irish Franciscan community. He said that St Patrick’s legacy is an enduring one. “

Listen to Lydia O'Kane's interview with Fr Micheál MacCraith 

“St Patrick was an immigrant and an outsider and a refugee in Ireland, in fact he was kidnapped, he came to Ireland first very much against his will. He was badly treated, but he managed to escape, but at the same time he had some inner conviction that the Irish people were worthwhile and he studied and prayed and under what he saw as divine inspiration he decided to go back and introduce Christianity to them. So, he is one of our first known immigrants to Ireland and when we think today, maybe how harshly we tend to treat immigrants, we should remember that St Patrick was or very first immigrant..."

Rome connection

This year St Isidore’s church near the famous Via Veneto is welcoming the Irish community in Rome through its doors by celebrating Holy Mass in honour of Ireland’s patron Saint.

St Isidore’s was founded by the Irish Franciscan, Fr Luke Wadding, in 1625 as a place where young Irish friars could study for the priesthood and where theological scholarship could be carried out. Indeed, it was Fr Wadding who persuaded the Church to put the Feast of St Patrick on the universal calendar, and it was at St Isidore’s that the Saint's day was first celebrated liturgically throughout the universal Church.

“Wadding managed to get St Patrick inserted into a new universal calender in the Church around 1630 which meant that St Patrick was not just an Irish Saint but had to be celebrated by the Church all over the world from Navan to Nagasaki. 


St Patrick was an evangelizer who received his call from the Lord to return to Ireland and spread the Gospel. It began a strong Irish missionary tradition which continues to this day around the world.

Saint Patrick’s legacy is indeed a great one, but in his own words he wrote, “I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland”. 

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