"I am Patrick. I am a sinner: the most unsophisticated of people; the least among all the Christians; and, to many, the most contemptible. I am the son of the deacon Calpornius, as he was the son of the priest Potitus who belonged to the village on Bannavern Taburniae. Indeed, near it he had a small estate from where, when aged about sixteen, I was taken captive. I was then ignorant of the true God and, along with thousands upon thousands of others, was taken into captivity in Ireland."
--from The Confession of St. Patrick, as quoted in Discovering Saint Patrick, by Thomas O'Loughlin, Paulist Press, 2005.
"And after a few years I was again with my parents in Britain who gave me a son's welcome. They, in good faith, begged me -- after all those great tribulations I had been through -- that I should go nowhere, nor ever leave them. And it was there, I speak the truth, that 'I saw a vision of the night': a man named Victoricus -- 'like one' from Ireland -- coming with innumerable letters. He gave me one of them and I began to read what was in it: 'The voice of the Irish'. And at that very moment as I was reading out the letter's opening, I thought I heard the voice of those around the wood of Foclut which is close to the Western Sea. It was 'as if they were shouting with one voice': 'O "Holy Boy", we beg you to come again and walk among us'. And I was 'broken hearted' and could not read anything more. And at that moment I woke up. Thank God, after many years the Lord granted them what they called out for."
Although many legends have been attached to St. Patrick since his death in the late fifth century, we are fortunate to have his Confession and his Letter to Coroticus, which scholars agree are authentic.
For more about the history and historicity of St. Patrick, see "John Lewis Examines the Life of St. Patrick", in the Journal of Historical Studies, University of Toronto, and "Saint Patrick", by James MacKillop, in A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology.
A very happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all!
(To hear Irish spoken and sung on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, click here.)