Every March 17, millions of people pause to reflect on their Irish heritage. Conceived as a Saint’s Day in the Catholic Church, Saint Patrick’s Day is now a time of celebration for millions. However, many of us have little knowledge of the man whose name we celebrate.
First of all, Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was a Roman, although born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton in Scotland, in the year 387. His original name is recorded as Maewyn Succat. His father, Calphurnius, belonged to a Roman family of high rank and held the office of decurio in Gaul or Britain. At the age of sixteen years old, Patrick was carried off into captivity by Irish marauders and was sold as a slave to a chieftain named Milchu in Dalriada, a territory of the present county of Antrim in Ireland. He was soon sold to another chieftain in the area. The future saint spent six years tending his master’s flocks near the modern town of Ballymena. During this time he learned to speak fluent Celtic.