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Saint Patrick

Early Life and His Calling

The facts of Patrick's life are largely obscured by legend. He belonged to a Christian family of Roman citizenship. Captured when barely 16 by Irish marauders and enslaved, he worked for six years as a herder on the slopes of Slemish (near Ballymena, Co. Antrim) or of Croaghpatrick or (most likely) of both. Then, in response to a voice, he escaped and embarked for Gaul.

Patrick spent some years wandering on the Continent and probably visited the Monastery of St. Martin at Marmoutier. He entered the monastery at Lérins and received the tonsure. He returned c.413 to his native Britain and lived for some years with relatives. During this time he had a vision that called him to return to Ireland to Christianize it. Accordingly, he returned to Europe (c.419) to perfect himself as a missionary. The next 12 years were spent in study at Auxerre. In 431, St. Palladius, first missionary bishop sent to Ireland, died; Patrick was consecrated (432) in his place by St. Germanus of Auxerre.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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