He was born Maewyn Succat to Roman parents living in Scotland. At 16, Maewyn was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland where he worked as a slave for six years. Maewyn's time in captivity, during which he worked as a shepherd, was critical to his spiritual development. He prayed to God constantly to help him through his suffering. One day, he had a dream in which God said: "Your ship is ready." He escaped his captors and boarded a ship for France. In France, Maewyn trained as a Catholic priest.
Back in Scotland, he had another dream in which an Irishman visited him with several letters. One letter had the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". He imagined a collective voice saying to him: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us."
He later returned to Ireland, now St. Patrick, landing at Wicklow. Not receiving a warm welcome from the locals, he landed further north and set about working as a missionary. As a foreigner in Ireland he was occasionally beaten robbed or put in chains. Yet he persevered, sharing the Gospel with the locals. In his 30 years in Ireland, St. Patrick converted 135,000 Irish men and women to Christianity. He established 700 churches and consecrated 350 bishops and ordained 5000 priests. He refused to accept gifts from wealthy women whom he had converted, took no payments for baptisms or ordinations and turned down gifts from kings.
St. Patrick turned some of the pagan symbols in Ireland into Christian ones, including the shamrock. The three-leafed plant represents the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. St. Patrick's Day, March 17, is believed to be the date of his death, celebrated for over a millennium.
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