St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church—in Brooklyn, New York—has an amazing stained-glass window featuring St. Patrick. This image depicts a detail from that window. St. Patrick is holding a shamrock (which—according to "the legend of the shamrock"—he used to teach the trinity). Image online, courtesy St. Thomas Aquinas Church website. Click on the image for a better view.
The Druids weren’t exactly pleased with Patrick's return to Ireland. When he arrived (the exact date is the subject of debate) there may have already been a bishop (called Palladius) in his new homeland. It is also possible, however, that Patrick’s arrival predated that of Palladius.
One thing is fairly clear. Patrick was different, and so was his approach to the Irish people. He was not about teaching “religion” to potential converts. He wanted to be a missionary - an apostle to spread the word of God’s love and grace to the Irish. "I spread my net,” he said, “to find everyone for God."
He thought if he could get to the farthest place - to the edge of the Earth - he would be the one who made the second coming of Jesus actually happen. To him, the edge of the Earth was the western part of Ireland. As Patrick wrote, in his Confession:
... behold, we are witnesses because the Gospel has been preached as far as the places beyond which no man lives. (The Confession of St. Patrick, point 34, available for online viewing at Readings in Church History, edited by Jonathan Marshall, at pages 157-58.)
It is said that bishops of the Catholic Church treated Patrick as a kind of theological looney since he focused less on ritual and more on the souls of people. As a priest, he wanted to preach the gospel to the whole world, “and then the end will come.”
“The end,” of course, did not come, but along the way even church officials began to change their views about Patrick. He went - in relatively short order - from theological looney, to bishop, to patron saint of Ireland.
He evolved, figuratively speaking, into someone whom everyone wants to own - culturally, politically, religiously and theologically. In 1801, following Britain’s Act of Union with Ireland, St. Patrick’s Cross was even added to the Union Jack.
Patrick's approach to life was fairly simple - believe in God and do His will. His writings are authentic and straightforward - and they are not about drinking pints of Guinness.
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